S.J. Frost has written in other genres besides Gay Romance, but her heart lead her to remain in this genre. She is best known for her novels Conquest and Natural Instincts. When not writing she can be found with her son and animals, enjoying how great life can be.
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
It all started when I was in college and studying writing. At that time, I thought I wanted to be primarily a fantasy author, because I’ve always loved the fantasy genre. For one of my classes, we were given a dialogue exercise as homework and as I was walking across campus, mentally complaining about the assignment because I didn’t know what to do, a character burst into my mind larger than life. He turned out to be Jesse Alexander, who would later star in my first novel, Conquest. What I wrote for my assignment would become the first chapter of Conquest.
Once I started writing his story, I couldn’t stop. It was completely different from anything else I’d ever written not only in content, but for the very first time, I felt I had a story that I truly wanted to have published and available to readers. I wanted to release a story that showed how beautiful and special the love is between two men and that’s continued to be my focus with all of my stories.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
That’s very flattering of you to say my fan base is humongous. I think I view it much more modestly! I’m really grateful for everyone who takes time out of their lives to read my books. Just knowing my books have made a few people happy makes me feel successful as an author.
My writing career really began with Conquest, the first book in my Conquest series. Jesse and Evan, who are the main characters, they really took on a life of their own and I just followed along on their adventures. After I wrote Conquest, I was compelled to write more and more. Soon Conquest turned into a series, then I started another series with vampires (Instincts), and more books came from there. All it took was that one book, those very special guys starring in it, and the rest of my books came from there.
Has having a child with special needs influenced your writing for the better?
I believe having my son has influenced me for the better overall as a person. I like to think that I was a compassionate person before he was born, but I know he’s truly made me so. With him I’ve learned that every achievement is special and worth celebrating, and that while things might not go as planned, rather than get upset, look for a way to make it better.
I’ve also, unfortunately, learned about discrimination since not everyone is kind or accepting of people with special needs, and how hurtful certain words can be. Certainly I’d known those things before, when you’re facing a doctor who says he doesn’t want to treat your son because he has Down Syndrome, it hits home a little harder. It also hit that doctor pretty hard when I let him know what I thought of that! Having my son has taught me what it really takes to stand up for someone you love. So I’m sure all that my son has taught me about love, compassion, strength, determination, and so much more has certainly influenced my writing.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
Everyone who I hang around I always tell what I write about, so I can’t think of anyone at this point in my life who I wouldn’t want to know what I write. My family, friends, co-workers at my day job, they all know what I write. Some people have walked out of my life because of it and while it hurt at the time, it also made me realize maybe they weren’t meant to be part of my future.
What is it like to help run the Yahoo! group The Sweet Spot alongside other writers?
It’s awesome! Sloan Parker and Jambrea Jo Jones are two amazingly talented authors, very sweet ladies, and great friends. We really enjoy running The Sweet Spot and holding Reader Appreciation Day every month. We’ve been very fortunate that each month, so many talented authors join in with us to offer books and prizes in the giveaway to thank readers for all the support they give to the genre. And we love opening up the group on that day for authors to post excerpts and share their work. It’s always a lot of fun!
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
One reason is that I think it’s natural for straight women to be drawn to the idea of reading about two men in an intimate relationship, or watching two men (or more) together in adult movies. After all, many straight men have never made a secret of liking two women together. Beyond the sexual aspect of it, I think it’s the stories themselves. There are some really amazing books in this genre and authors who write very compelling stories. The stories may be about gay characters, but the themes in many of them transcend sexuality because they’re about the human experience and those things that connect us all as people.
What was it like to shift the drive of Andreas Nikandros from finding the vampire that killed his sister to loving one?
It was interesting going on that journey with Andreas in Natural Instincts and even I hadn’t been sure how it was all going to play out until I was working through it. At the start of the story, he had a lot of anger in him, but deep down, he wasn’t a vengeful person. He needed that help in understanding how vampires are, what they were really like, and coming to terms with his anger and his grief. Lucky for him, the vampire, Titus Antonius Calidus, came along to teach him those things.
Titus is a very strong personality and someone who’s lived through pretty much everything with being a former Roman centurion and over 1,000 years-old. Though, for all he did to help Andreas make that shift, Andreas helped him just as much. That book is still one of my favorites that I’ve written. I’d love to go back and re-visit Andreas and Titus in a new adventure someday.
What are you currently working?
I’ve just finished writing two novellas for my two respective publishers, MLR Press and Ellora’s Cave, and I’m getting ready to turn them in. The one for MLR Press is a project I’m really excited about; it’s part of a six story compilation with six authors contributing a story—Parker Williams, Diana DeRicci, Kendall McKenna, Kaje Harper, Stephani Hecht, and myself. The compilation is called Storming Love, and each story will feature a couple facing the same hurricane and its aftermath. Each story has “Storming Love” in the title with the characters’ names following, so mine is, Storming Love: Gage and Collin. I’m thrilled to be part of it because the other authors involved are so incredible and talented. It’s an honor to be part of the project with them.
The second novella for Ellora’s Cave is tentatively titled, Heart’s Gamble. The title’s subject to change, but that’s what I’ve been calling it as I’ve been working on it. This story is about a horse rescuer and a Thoroughbred trainer…and it’s been extremely difficult to work on because it’s very close to home. I’m a horse owner and have seen a lot of bad things done to horses and know even more than I’ve seen. I’m passionately against horse slaughter, so writing a story dealing with this subject has been hard. In fact, my son’s pony is a rescue from a kill auction and he’s the sweetest little pony you could ever want for a child. So with this story, I’ve had to be careful to not let my emotions run away with me and work to make the story one of hope, not tragedy.
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
Once an idea hits me, I usually mull it over for a few days, or even a few weeks. Give it some time to grow and get familiar with the characters. When I feel ready, then I sit down and start to write. I don’t go off notes or an outline. I just write and let the story unfold as I go along. Once I have a first draft finished, I set it aside for a bit, then go back into it and revise, revise, revise (my editor would say I cling). I try to have my manuscripts as clean as I can make them on my own before I turn them in. Usually I’ll take a story through five to eight drafts before turning it in.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
It varies with each novel and their final word count, but on average it takes me about six to eight months from the time I put the first word down to when I’m sending it off to my editor. Some of the shorter novels, around 60k have taken less time, about four to six months.
Was using music as the basis for Jesse Alexander and Evan Arden’s relationship difficult? Would the novel have been different without it?
The music aspect of the story was one of my favorite things about writing Conquest. It was challenging and it took a lot of research, but I loved every moment with the details of the music and music business in the book. I don’t think the story would be anything close to what it is without music being part of it. Being musicians and rock stars is such a strong part of Jesse and Evan, they wouldn’t be the people they are without having music in their lives.
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?
If you’re thinking about writing gay romance, I would suggest reading a lot in the genre from various authors. It’ll help to understand some of the common themes and dynamics of the stories Also, once you have a story finished, before submitting your first story, finding a beta reader or crit partner to help you make the story the absolute best it can be might be beneficial and could save yourself some heartache from rejection letters. A person can be a great storyteller, but not so good with the mechanics of writing and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all need help with our stories. For a lot of authors, myself included, it’s hard to see your own mistakes in your work. You’re so close to it, your mind fills in what should be there and your eyes miss the mistakes and typos. Having fresh eyes look over your manuscript can help catch a lot issues. Same as after you’re published, your editor can be invaluable in helping you to make your story stronger.
And don’t be shy about creating Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites accounts under your author name and networking with other authors. There’s so much that can be learned about writing and promoting just from watching what other authors do.
When it comes to building an audience, try to look for good opportunities to help get your name out there to readers; do interviews and guest blogs; participate in group events (such as Reader Appreciation Day that we hold at The Sweet Spot. Yeah, you know I had to drop that in there), have a blog and/or website of your own, and make yourself accessible to readers. It can take a long time to build an audience and really the most important thing to it is to keep putting out books and always keep writing.