Author A.M. Arthur is nothing short of a great writer. She is known best for her novels Unearthing Cole and Cost of Repairs. Her novels take readers on an emotional journey that keeps the pages turning!
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
Believe it or not, fanfiction. I started writing fanfic about fifteen years ago for a variety of different fandoms, and that is what led me to begin writing and publishing original fiction. I’d been writing other prose fiction, mostly in the SFF genre for a while when I discovered Kish (the Kyle/Fish romance on the soap opera “One Life to Live”) via Youtube. I totally fell in love with the characters and began reading some of the fanfic others were writing. One day I got it in my head to write one, and I discovered I really enjoyed it. I was already an avid m/m romance reader, so trying my hand at writing it made perfect sense.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
Oh gosh, I don’t know if I’d say my fan base is humongous, but they are very, very loyal. I adore my fans. They are crazy supportive and I love writing for them knowing they’re wanting more from me. As for the beginning of my career, I briefly touched on it above. My first original m/m romance was a paranormal, and I honestly didn’t know if it was any good. I submitted it to Musa, which at the time was a fairly new e-press and they were looking to add m/m authors to their roster. They took a chance on me, and the positive reviews for “Prodigal” gave me the courage to write “Frozen” for Musa, and then begin what eventually became “Cost of Repairs.”
You write under a pseudonym. Why?
When I first decided to attempt publication in m/m romance, I was publishing fairly frequently under another name, and I wanted to keep the two separate. I wanted to give A.M. Arthur a chance to build a career and a fan base completely apart from my other name.
What is it like to express creativity through experiment with cooking?
It’s a blast. Playing with food is a little bit like playing with words. You tweak things as you go hoping to make the end result as perfect and enjoyable as possible.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
Well, pretty much everyone on my mother’s side of the family is extremely conservative. We do not have political or religious discussions when we get together, because I’d probably end up slapping someone for being so narrow-minded and bigoted. I’m not entirely sure how they’d react to finding out. I know they wouldn’t understand or approve. They’d probably say they’ll pray for my soul. (*rolls eyes*) I’m not ashamed of the books I write. Far from it. This is one of the most accepting genres there is, but it’s simply easier to not talk about it with certain people in my real life. It saves all of us from the drama.
Cole Alston’s character is introduced with a troubled past. What was it like writing a character with anxiety?
I’ve had my own issues with anxiety in the past (including an actual send-me-to-the-emergency-clinic panic attack last summer), so I went into his story with a small amount of understanding of what it feels like. That squeezing of your chest, the difficulty in breathing. But a lot of it came from Cole himself. He was an easy character to get to know, and I wanted him to find happiness so badly that I truly enjoyed writing his book (and the follow up releasing in July).
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
Why read about only one hot guy when you can read about two? (*grin*) I can’t speak for other women, but I enjoy the genre because I can relate more to characters who struggle with being different from what is socially considered to be normal. I have a hard time relating to a lot of heroines in m/f romance.
Was it difficult to write the sickly character of Jaime Winters?
Not really, because by the time we meet Jaime, he’s been recovering from his heart condition for several years. He was actually a lot of fun, because he looks at life with the wide-eyed innocence of a kid discovering his very first amusement park. He was restrained from enjoying his life for so long that once Alessandro shows up and helps him step out into the world, all bets are off. He just wants to live, you know?
What are you currently working?
I have several different projects in various stages. One is a sequel to a spin-off book from the “Cost of Repairs” series for Samhain. The first spin-off book has been contracted and will release sometime in early 2015, but I think this sequel is going to be one of the hardest books I’ve ever written (thanks to one of the heroes and his medical condition). But so worth it when it’s finally done. Another project is a different spin-off of “Cost of Repairs.” You’ll meet one of the heroes in David’s book, “Foundation of Trust” in October. The third (yes, lots of balls in the air) is a follow-up to “Getting It Right,” a book I just contracted with Carina Press. They are companions to the “Belonging” series, all set in Wilmington, Delaware.
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
My ideas often get a chance to marinate for a while before I start writing them, usually because a new shiny idea shows up while I’m elbows deep in another book. I’ll open a folder and make notes, gather photos that remind me of the project. Once I’m able to start on the project, I usually do character bios first. I need to get to know my heroes as much as possible before I can tell their stories, so I figure out their histories and fears. It definitely helps while drafting. I don’t outline, exactly, but I do keep a list of plot points I need to hit, or future scenes I know I need. I don’t always know how the boys will find their HEA, only that they will. And I don’t actually rewrite to death. Or rewrite much at all. I think I’ve been writing for so long that I can generally turn out a pretty clean first draft (something my editors love).
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
How long is a piece of string? Honestly, it totally depends. My record was 23 days for a full-length, 83,000 word novel. Those boys jumped into my head and they didn’t let me rest until their story was told. Conversely, “Understanding Jeremy” is a 34,000 word novella that I wrote in fits and starts over the course of seven months because the characters wouldn’t cooperate.
What was it like to see Prodigal on the market after publishing it?
Seeing what readers thought of it must have been exciting. –It was a crazy thrill to see my first m/m romance on sale. I was pretty nervous because most of the m/m romance that is popular and sells well is contemporary, and this was paranormal. But reactions were positive, and I still get a little thrill when a new review for it pops up. “Prodigal” and “Frozen” don’t sell as well as my contemporaries, but I’m very proud of those books, and I often entertain thoughts of returning to that paranormal world.
What advice do you have for those thinking about writing gay romance and what advice do you have for those who are trying to build an audience from scratch?
My best advice to anyone who wants to write is to read. Read in the genre in which you want to write, and read beyond it. Read, read, read. And don’t be afraid to write what you like to read, even if you think it’s a trope that’s been done to death. I love books that are heavy on the angst and emotional drama, so my books tend to have a lot of that in them. I put my characters through the wringer because seeing them come out stronger in the end is always worth it. As for writing gay romance specifically, make sure you understand the mechanics of two guys having sex if you’re going to write sex scenes. Not only intercourse (lube, people, lube!), but all of the different things guys can do in bed together. Blow jobs and frottage can be just as sexy as anal sex scenes.
Building an audience from scratch can be scary and intimidating. My best advice is to do what I didn’t do, and to self-promote as much as you can. I’m a very shy person, and it takes a lot for me to say “look, my book, read it!” to other people. They can’t read your book if they don’t hear about it. Get on message boards and blogs. Join Facebook discussion groups. Interact with people as much as possible without being obnoxious. Send books out to review blogs. Request to do guest blog posts. The most promotion I’ve ever done for a book release was for “No Such Thing” this past winter, and the results were well-worth the work.