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Jessica Skye Davies’ *Possession*

Scroll down for an author interview and some excerpts (yes, teasers).

Possession by Jessica Skye Davies (cover by Paul Richmond) Dreamspinner Press

Confirmed skeptic Tyler Ward dismisses his horoscope when it warns against bringing home anything “impish.” Then he finds an antique cast-iron doorstop shaped like Punch from the Punch and Judy puppet show, buys it as a reminder of his youth in England, and mysterious misfortunes begin to befall Tyler the very next day. His longtime partner Kevin begins to believe an unseen force is out to hurt Tyler… does he believe enough to find the truth?

Jessica Skye Davies has been a writer since her first works were “published” in her grandparents’ living room and written in crayon. Today she is a former administrative assistant who is now happily pursuing a degree in social work. She is a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she has been active in the local GLBT community for a number of years. Outside of writing, Jessica has a wide range of interests and hobbies: from Mozart in a music hall to punk in pubs, from Shakespeare to Vonnegut, from nights on the town to afternoons at country farm markets. She enjoys working on both sides of a camera and studying other cultures, languages and history. She loves meeting new people and exploring new places, always open to whatever elements might inspire her next writing project.

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Interview with Jessica Skye Davies (maybe a few surprises…)

Jessica, thank you so much for agreeing to appear here on the blog and answer a few questions. I’m itching to dig right in to some questions about Possession and your writing in general so without further preamble…

Q: I have a very strong impression that, other than some sweet, and perhaps even juicy, sex (note for the reader, we’ll get to taste that later), Possession has the feel of a “cozy” mystery—the kind Agatha Christie might write (or perhaps Rita Mae Brown as another example). Is that sub-genre an influence for this novella? For your writing in general? Yes or no, how did you come to write this story with that hometown feel?
A: A supernatural Agatha Christie is actually a pretty good description for Possession. At the time of writing it, I didn’t intentionally emulate any particular author or style, I just had the idea for a spooky story and went with it. I guess if anything might have influenced some of the “feel” I tried to put into the story it would be more like a toned-down Stephen King, or grown up “Goosebumps”/”Are You Afraid of the Dark?” kind of thing (I remember being totally creeped out by the Nickelodeon series). Perhaps a bloodless/zombie-less George Romero, being from Night of the Living Dead territory and having spent more hours (and dollars!) than I’d like to count in the mall from Dawn of the Dead. It’s kind of odd that I decided to put this one up for my first fiction publication because the majority of what I write isn’t in the supernatural/paranormal vein at all. I write much more sappy/angsty romance most of the time.

The “hometown” feel of Possession is a story in itself. The setting, the “gayborhood” Westcroft, is essentially based on a neighborhood of Pittsburgh that I frequent, mostly known for upscale shopping, vintage clothes stores, antique shops, cafes and gay bars. The demented doorstop, in fact, actually exists in one of those antique shops. I saw it one Sunday afternoon while poking around and thought it was weird and creepy and couldn’t imagine anyone ever having it in their home. But then for the next couple days I couldn’t stop thinking about the thing, wanting to know more about whether there were other ones like it, its provenance, etc. I’d thought it might be amusing if someone displayed it in their dining room and gave a dinner party, just to watch their guest’s discomfort level with having that thing watching them eat. Finally I ended up going back to the shop, taking a couple pictures, and deciding that the only thing I could do to exorcise the thing from my brain was to foist it onto some unsuspecting characters. Little did I know it would end up becoming my first publication!

Q: Your two main characters in Possession have perhaps an exceptionally loving relationship, though of course it may hit a few bumps. Did you model them after ‘real world’ people you know, or is it an ideal? Something in between?
A: Actually, I go to lengths to make sure my characters don’t too closely reflect people I know. People always seem to worry about ending up in writer’s work, for some strange reason! I think when it comes to my characters their personalities more likely to come either from within me or out of the blue, sometimes they seem to present themselves almost “fully formed” as individuals ready to inhabit the story. When it comes to Kevin and Tyler’s relationship, I think that their strength is pretty much rooted in their reasonableness about themselves and one another. They accept one another as human and know that a relationship requires discussion and compromise, and that it’s ok to acknowledge that sometimes you might feel like throwing your partner “down the stairs,” as one friend once said, but you don’t because you know you can work on it together. They’re kind of like George and Jim in Tom Ford’s A Single Man (which I loved to bits and just saw again the other day), except that Kevin isn’t even remotely as closeted as George. They’re romantic, but also very practical. Rather like myself. So, short answer: somewhere in between.

Q: Raunchy question… Does Tyler always bottom? Feel free to be as brief or explicit as you wish. Seriously. And, does sex play an important role in the story other than keeping your characters and readers happy?
A: Only when he wants to. Which is most of the time, actually. Tyler’s a pretty pushy bottom, very nearly “bottoms from the top.” But Kevin and Tyler are really a very equal couple, Kevin’s more than happy giving in to Tyler’s whims. Sex certainly goes a long way for character and reader contentment, something I generally try to keep in mind when writing, but my writing doesn’t usually focus heavily on the sex. Kevin and Tyler’s relationship really isn’t sex-centric either. They certainly enjoy it and are very comfortable with physical affection, but it is far from the only thing that’s kept them together for five years. Sex does play a role in Possession, but it’s a very subtle one.

Q: Magic. Not exactly fantasy, but magic—does all your writing have the magical element? If so is it always explicit?
A: Just the magic of love! Although, it’s not terribly rare for me to include some mention of mystical/spiritual things like reading auras and “crystal” metaphysics. If anything, I’d say there’s often an element of destiny to my stories, but that may be just because it works so well for circularity of narrative.

Q: Your cover is yet one more example of Paul Richmond’s characteristic fine work. The elements surrounding Tyler and Kevin—the golden horoscope medallion, the truly sinister punch—express the theme and ‘flavor’ of the story quite well. Did you have input into what elements and what type of art Possession would have on it’s cover? What was your reaction to the cover when you first saw it?
A: My reaction to Paul’s cover art – love at first sight! For me, putting out my first publication was such a surreal experience from the beginning, it all went so smoothly. The further along in the process I got, I began to realize that the moment it was all going to “hit” me would be when I saw the cover art, that that would make it really real in a way, for someone else to be giving a representation of my work, literally seeing an interpretation of my characters and elements of the story through another’s eyes. I basically stated in my cover art specs that I wanted the artist to have fairly broad license on the cover and just gave several snippets from the story of Tyler and Kevin’s description and general attitude. I was mostly interested in relating the tone of the story as being about a regular, loving couple that faces a creeping, and creepy, influence over their lives.

Q: From your bio, it looks like you’ve been very busy with your education, and have plans for a career apart from writing—in social work. I’d love to hear a bit more about that, but I’d especially like to know whether you expect social work to affect the type of writing you will do. Perhaps also you can just give readers an idea of what to expect in the future (near and far).
A: Almost a decade after high school, I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up. Having decided to go back to school after a number of years working as an administrative assistant was a pretty big move for me, but it was one of those things that I knew I had to do then and there at the time. I started just going back for my general studies associate of arts, but finally came to terms with the decision to go for a bachelor’s in social work last year. I’ve always wanted to do something more than just “being” an ally to the gay community and that’s what I’ll be focusing my education on over the next couple years. As much as I love writing, I’m the sort who, unless we’re talking on a J.K. Rowling scale, could never rely on writing to be my primary income. Being a Taurus does not allow for that sort of uncertainty! Being able to use my office-life experience as well as my capacity for compassion, and possibly my writing skills, to really make a difference in the community was the perfect answer for me.

Whether my future in social work will have a huge impact on what I write, I honestly rather doubt unless it just gives me some different perspectives to write from in general. Though I do think most writers would agree that our life experiences often make a difference in our writing.

Upcoming projects: I’m currently doing some heavy polishing and detail work on a story that’s been finished but just sitting around for quite a while. It’s much longer than Possession, novel length rather than a short novella, and not at all a creep-show. It’s the story of a 30-year-old shy virgin who’s only just gotten to the point of being ok with being out to his friends. He gets dragged to a male strippers club for his best friend’s bachelorette party and after the show, when he ducks outside for a cigarette, he meets that night’s star performer who asks him out for dinner and drinks. It’s a heavily romantic story about what impact love and acceptance from others can have on our self-acceptance.

Thanks, Jessica, for graciously indulging my questions, and for allowing me to feature you on Sylvre.com. It has been a pleasure.

You’re very welcome!

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Possession—excerpt #1 (and so it begins…)

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in the Westcroft neighborhood. A mild autumn breeze stirred Tyler Ward’s dark curls as he strolled along, crunching the dry fallen leaves underfoot. The trendy end of the city was a cross between an artist’s village and boys’ town, a close-knit community that often felt like one big family. Most every storefront on charming yet chic Aspen Avenue was a small, locally owned business that proudly sported a rainbow flag on the premises, and everyone knew their neighbors.

Tyler rolled his eyes as a particularly flaming couple across the street circumvented a ladder leaning against a building, despite having to walk into the street to do so. Some people were so gullible about that sort of thing. Wasn’t it more dangerous to walk into the road and risk being hit than to walk under an empty ladder and risk some vague, mystical punishment of “bad luck”?

The smell of fresh roasted coffee from the Celestial Café, a block down the street, was a perfect complement to the scent of turning leaves in the cool, crisp air. Tyler’s stomach rumbled slightly; it was definitely time for his Saturday afternoon snack. Tyler knew most everybody in their little “gayborhood”—many of the shop owners were good friends of his, and Saturday was usually his day to visit and shop with friends.

“Hey, Ty.” Lukas Zamora, the owner of the café, smiled from behind the counter. Tyler could always be trusted to show up on a Saturday afternoon while business was slow. Lukas put down the local indie paper and automatically poured a cup of hot water, knowing exactly what British expatriate Tyler would be having.

“No extra business from the fair on Chestnut?” Tyler asked, sitting down at the bar.

“Yeah, we were pretty busy earlier. Probably pick up again when they all come back to their cars this evening. Oh, Ty, if you’re shopping, this isn’t a good day for you to… um…. Wait a minute,” Lukas said, pulling up the astrology website on his ever-present laptop. “Here: ‘not a good day to bring home anything impish’.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to hit the sex shop, but now you’ve mentioned it….” Tyler grinned at Lukas.

“Hey, it’s serious, man. Says here it could have ‘disastrous and far-reaching consequences’. See, Mars and Saturn are conjunct right now with Uranus, during a freakin’ Jupiter retrograde. And I think Mercury is also square Saturn, which just reinforces the whole point. You being a Capricorn and all….”

Tyler quirked his brow and smirked at his friend. “Just give me my cuppa, yeah, mate?”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Lukas said, handing Tyler his usual cup of Earl Grey with vanilla syrup mixed in.

“I consider myself duly warned.” Tyler nodded gravely, handing over a five, taking a peanut-butter brownie, and telling his friend to keep the change.

“You and Kevin coming over for dinner tomorrow?” Lukas asked, putting Tyler’s change in the tip jar, where he knew it would end up even if he’d forced Tyler to take it. Tyler and his partner, Kevin Strabane, had been joining Lukas and his partner, Daniel, for Sunday evening dinners for the last few years. Daniel worked in Kevin’s art gallery and was also a former Briton who had been one of Tyler’s first friends in the US.

“Yeah, of course,” Tyler said, munching on his snack at the counter. “What are you cooking?”

Lukas shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll probably figure that out when I’m in the store at one in the morning.”

“You need to let other people close up shop once in a while, mate. Well, I’m off. See you guys tomorrow,” Tyler said, finishing his brownie. He headed across the street, sipping on his tea and leisurely window-shopping the avenue. He was tempted to try on a new pair of shoes, the red-brown alligator oxfords in the shoe boutique window really catching his eye, but his shoes already outnumbered Kevin’s by about five to one.

Instead, Tyler continued on to the vintage clothes shop a block up. Stefan, the shop owner, couldn’t wait to show him the collections of Levi’s he’d just gotten in, and Tyler ended up gleefully taking two pairs of the jeans, along with a dark brown corduroy jacket, a belt, and a couple of autumn-toned scarves.

Tyler and Stefan chatted for a bit about news in the neighborhood and around their little circle of friends. Tyler couldn’t help snickering and grinning at the aging drag queen that passed by the shop, waggling fuchsia fingernails at Stefan through the window. Stefan just smiled back politely before shooting Tyler a glare.

“Aw, c’mon, don’t you like Tierra?” Tyler cackled. “I guess I oughta get outta here, though. I think she wants to stop in while you’re not with a ‘customer’.”

“Sometimes I really hate you, Ty,” Stefan muttered.

“Yeah, of course you do, Steffers. You won’t be saying that when I’ve brought you some of Kev’s pumpkin bread.” Stefan was an absolute addict for Kevin’s sweet autumn breads, as were most people who’d ever tried them. “Okay, I’m gonna go poke around in the antiques for a bit. I’ll ring you sometime this week,” Tyler said.

“Alright. No, wait, don’t call me till like Thursday. Lukas told me this morning that there’s something bad about communication for people born too close to each other’s signs or something.”

“Bloody hell. You two are too susceptible to that shite. He told me not to bring home anything impish, for fuck’s sake. What’s that even supposed to mean?”

“I dunno. Don’t pick up any flavored condoms?” Stefan grinned.

“Yeah, well, Kev and I don’t need those anyway. I’m leaving now. I promise I won’t ring till Thursday.”

Tyler just shook his head at all these silly ideas as he crossed the street again to the antiques shop. The prices were a little high-end for him, but he hadn’t been in there in ages, and he really enjoyed just looking at the old and odd things acquired there. He quietly wandered about the three levels of the old house-turned-shop for a little while, looking at hand-painted fireplace screens and paintings of people’s grumpy-looking grans, barley-legged tables and cut-glass wine sets, old porcelain dolls and heavily embroidered ottomans. The soft hum and vibration against his thigh told him Kevin was calling, and Tyler started back down to the main level of the shop as he answered and told his boyfriend he’d be home in about ten minutes.

Just as Tyler hung up, though, something caught his eye. In front of the shop’s downstairs fireplace, amongst several sets of fireplace tools, was a painted cast-iron figure of the mischievous puppet Mr. Punch, in cameo. The prominent chin and drooping jester’s hat made the form of a crescent moon, with a hooked nose, hunched back, and evil grin. The words DON’T YOU TELL were painted along the base of the figure.

It was a rather grotesque thing and patently creepy, but it made Tyler chuckle. Out of pure curiosity, Tyler moved closer to look at the tag, which simply said, “19th Century English Punch doorstop: $50.00+.” It was an incredibly low price for anything in that shop, and Tyler felt like he really couldn’t resist. Sure, it was ugly and disturbing, but Punch and Judy shows were so nostalgically British that Tyler just had to have it as a little reminder of home.

As he signed the check and handed it to the old woman who ran the shop, he couldn’t help grinning as he thought of that horoscope’s warning. It didn’t get much more impish than Mr. Punch. Maybe this would show Lukas and Stefan to see reason when nothing bad happened just because he brought something “impish” home. Because, of course, nothing would happen….

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Another Possession excerpt—a sweet one (rated X minus, but still if you’re under 18 walk away)

Tyler stirred a bit, yawning, and felt Kevin’s arm tighten around him. “Morning, old man,” he murmured.
“Are you okay?” Kevin asked immediately, his voice still gravelly from sleep.

“Yeah, it’s fine this morning. Guess I just needed to sleep it off, y’know?” Tyler said, turning to face his lover so he could meet his eyes.

“Glad to hear that,” Kevin said, relieved. “I hate seeing you hurting.” He brushed a stray curl back from Tyler’s forehead before kissing the soft skin his fingers had traced.

“Nothing hurts too much when you’re near me, Kev,” Tyler said honestly.

“I’ll always be near you,” Kevin vowed, softly kissing Tyler’s jawline.

Tyler’s fingertips under Kevin’s strong chin brought their lips together. It wasn’t long before it was more tongues than lips, and not long after that before Tyler was rolling onto his back and all but dragging Kevin on top of him, his hands greedily roaming his lover’s chest.

“Want you even nearer,” Tyler murmured.

Kevin responded by wrapping Tyler tighter in his arms and going in for a long, deep, passionate kiss.

“Nearer,” Tyler breathed when he finally had use of his tongue again, canting his hips upward so that their rigid cocks pressed together served to reinforce his point.

“You sure, angel? I was a little worried that maybe Saturday night was why you were hurting yesterday, I don’t want to cause you pain,” Kevin said, managing to keep his voice more steady than he felt. He was more than ready to sink into Tyler’s beautiful body then and there, but with Tyler only just coming off an attack, Kevin was also more than prepared to exercise unlimited self-control.

Tyler just shook his head, though. “It’s fine, really. I want you in me, Kev. You know I’d tell you if I thought it was still dodgy. C’mon, please? You’ve got me all hot and bothered. Don’t be a cock tease now!”

Kevin couldn’t help grinning at Tyler’s precious pout. “Well, if you promise me you’re all right, I suppose I could see my way to doing something about this for you,” he said, cupping Tyler’s groin.

“I’ll swear on a stack of Playgirls,” Tyler said vehemently, snagging the lube from the nightstand and pushing it into Kevin’s other hand. “Get on with it, then!”

Kevin laughed out loud at that, but complied, circling a lubed fingertip around Tyler’s opening a few times before seeking entrance. “Demanding little bitch. And I thought you got rid of all your Playgirls when you met me.”

“Kept a small stack for swearing on at need.” Tyler smirked, then gasped as Kevin pressed another finger into him. His gasp melted into a long groan when Kevin ducked his head and Tyler felt a hot tongue lapping at his shaft.

Once he was sure he had him properly lubed, Kevin gathered Tyler into his arms, murmuring, “C’mere, beautiful.”

Tyler wrapped his arms around Kevin’s shoulders and his legs around Kevin’s waist, taking Kevin’s kiss for all it was worth as he felt his partner slowly, gently filling him. “Two halves whole,” Tyler said softly, smiling as Kevin hit bottom and stayed there for a few moments.

“Love you so much, Ty,” Kevin mumbled, his face buried against Tyler’s neck. “Love you always.”

“Love me, Kev,” Tyler whispered.
Kevin kept the pace slow and gentle, not only because of Tyler’s back, but because, more than anything, he wanted to express physically how much Tyler really meant to him, on a level beyond the teasing and dirty talking, grasping and thrusting. There was hardly a moment when his lips weren’t in contact with his lover’s body, kissing, suckling, and generally worshiping every bit of skin he could reach.

Even with the lazy morning pace, it still didn’t take long for the intensity of their feelings to take them both to the edge of physical completion. Then it was just a few deep thrusts and several gentle tugs, and they were both in the profound rapture of a shared orgasm.

Despite his boneless, blissed-out state, Tyler didn’t let go of Kevin afterward as they gradually drifted back down from the peak. After a while, Tyler moved to comb his fingers through Kevin’s shaggy locks and kissed his lover’s temple before Kevin lifted his head from Tyler’s shoulder and kissed him back fully.

“I never really knew what sex was till I met you,” Tyler said softly.

Kevin grinned languidly, watching the love glow in Tyler’s expressive eyes. “Scared the fuck outta me that first time. I thought for sure I’d done something wrong and I’d never see you again.” The first time he had made love to Tyler had been one of the best experiences of his life, until he had glanced down and saw a tear slipping down his lover’s cheek.

Tyler smiled back and shrugged. “I’d just realized there really was such a thing as a soul mate, and that I’d found mine. Of course I was teary-eyed.”

Kevin just wrapped Tyler in his arms and held him tightly. There was a question practically on the tip of his tongue, one he’d wanted to ask for years, but he never seemed to have the courage to just say it. One day, Kevin promised himself, like every other time, and instead just whispered, “I love you.”

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