Isabelle Rowan on the sexiness of bad boys and vampires; excerpt from *The Road to Byron*

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Matthew Kellett and Craig Jeffries are lifelong friends and neighbors. They thought they knew everything about each other, but some secrets seem too big share. Craig hides the truth about his father—but Matthew’s secret is his own.

To celebrate their high school graduation, Craig, Matthew, and Craig’s girlfriend take a road trip up the east coast of Australia to Byron Bay. Then one night on the beach, everything changes: Matthew meets Damien, a college student who senses what Matthew is hiding. Though the connection between them is undeniable, Matthew scrambles to keep it secret. It will take a shocking revelation from Craig and a lot of courage to get Matthew back on the road to Byron—and the boy waiting there.

A black cat for a witch may be a cliche, but add a whole bunch of tribal tattoos and an intolerance to garlic (seriously) and you have Isabelle Rowan.

Having moved to Australia from England as a small child Isabelle now lives in a seaside suburb of Melbourne where she teaches film making and English. She is a movie addict who spends far too much money on traveling… but then again, life is to be lived.


The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I don’t have a character until I have their name. I will often try a few names on for size and if they don’t fit the muses will not co-operate! I also like names that can be shortened or made into a nickname because that can say so much about relationships, tone, etc.
Book titles… argh! These are so difficult. Like character names, they will usually change several times during the writing process until one appears that feels right. A Note in the Margin was probably the easiest because the whole point of the story is that there is more to the story than the text itself –you need to read the notes in the margin. The hardest was the most recent The Road to Byron. Don’t know why, but that one was changed so many times and when I finally decided it was like, well duh, of course that’s its name!

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: The most recent – The Road to Byron – is a road trip up the east coast of Australia. It starts off near where I live on the Mornington Peninsula before the boys go in search of better surf beaches. So far all my books have been set in Australia and a few have some cross-over references – even if they don’t take place around Melbourne there will be a link. It’s home and what I know!

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: They have total control! If a muse has something in mind there is nothing I can do to change it and believe me, I’ve tried!

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I think it’s that the human experience is universal and a huge part of that is love, regardless of gender.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Most definitely! I love to get feedback and character questions/suggestions. I was writing a fanfic and had planned for a main character to die. When that was suggested at the end of a chapter the comments made me keep him and I’m so glad I did!

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Mutual respect and openness. I love to hear what people think and will always listen!

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Reviews terrify me! When A Note in the Margin was released it never even crossed my mind that there were people out there who might want to review it. Luckily I have a wonderful publisher who sent me the link to my first review and, even luckier, it was a good one! Reviews vary greatly and I have almost learned to take the good with the bad. Constructive criticism is very useful; I take their advice to heart and always try to improve.

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: Hmmm, I like a bad boy and people might be surprised that Galen in Ink might be my sexiest. There is something very sexy about a vicious vampire who skulks in the shadows. He’s pale, tattooed, slinky, long hair and very sharp teeth! But there’s also a new character on the horizon that I find very sexy – he’s not published yet, but hopefully will be soon. His name’s Sam – watch for him! *winks*

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).

Dominic carefully unbuttoned his shirt and slipped it down to fall on the back of the chair then waited for Michael to begin. It had been a long time since Dominic had felt nervous and it surprised him that he could still feel the flutter of anticipation. So intent was his focus on the movement of Michael’s hands that he was startled when the fingers actually made contact with his bare skin. He closed his eyes. It was such a simple touch, just fingertips marking out the boundaries of the proposed tattoo, but it sent a deep shiver through Dominic’s long neglected body and sparked a different hunger.

Ink (page 4)

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I have a few things on the go at the moment.

~ The Red Heart – a new novella about a young Goth called Daniel who is joined by Sam, an ex-military drover, as they walk the desert of central Australia to Uluru.

~ Book 3 in the Margins series – this one will be mainly about Jamie, but David, John and Adam will all be there too.

~ “Snowman” – I’m expanding my short story into a novel because Caleb and Paul have a lot more to their story.

I have a few other plot bunnies bouncing too!

An excerpt from The Road to Byron

The exertion of swimming felt good. The steady stroke always calmed Matthew and his breathing fell into a relaxed rhythm. Side by side they swam, catching sight of the other when their need to breathe matched up. Matthew’s discomfort dissipated as he was buoyed on the water, enjoying the cool slide over his body. It was only when a hand touched his skin that he stopped.

They were in deeper; not enough to have to tread water, but enough that it lapped against their chests.

“What’s up?” Matthew asked noticing the questioning look in Damien’s eyes.

“Why didn’t you come over last night? Seriously?”

It was a simple enough question and one that should have been easy to answer, but Matthew shrugged and looked back to the shore. This was new territory, unchartered territory for Matthew Kellett boy from the suburbs who all the girls liked, but never seemed to get very far with. Finally he turned back and said, “I wanted to.”

“You should have.” Damien smiled and seemed relieved to see Matthew smile back.

“Yeah, I guess I should have.” The words were barely spoken when Matthew felt the soft touch of a hand on his side. He tried not to react as their warmth was swapped skin to skin in the cool water. He knew Damien was waiting for him to do something. Anything. But Matthew stood unable to move, not even when the pad of the thumb stroked slowly over his belly.

“Am I wrong? Do you want me to stop?” Damien asked quietly.

Matthew gave a slight shake of his head. Is the water warmer? It feels warmer, he thought and looked into Damien’s eyes. Stormy blue. Then those eyes grew closer and lost focus as lips brushed his. It was just a light touch as if testing the waters. As if Damien was waiting for Matthew to pull back and make an excuse or react with a punch. But neither happened.

The kiss felt right and, for once, Matthew didn’t allow all the doubts he’d felt before stop him. With eyes open the barest crack he returned the kiss; just as soft and tentative. When his eyes closed Matthew noticed the slight taste of salt water and then the rub of stubble at the edges of soft lips. As the warm tongue parted his lips Matthew welcomed it and met it with his own.

For the first time Matthew was able to actually stop thinking about what he was doing and just enjoy how it felt.

The hands that moved below the surface of the water were as slow and soft as the light current. Damien’s fingers brushed over Matthew’s belly and down where they remained still just above the waistband of his board shorts. The pair swayed in the gentle waves and Damien eased back enough to whisper, “You’re allowed to touch me.”

All the air disappeared from Matthew’s lungs and he leaned a little closer momentarily trapping Damien’s fingers between them. As their lips met again Matthew finally touched the other man’s skin. His palms pressed against Damien’s sides, holding him, feeling the taut muscles beneath them.
But the kiss ended all too soon.

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