Mercy Celeste is best known for her novels Wicked Game and Behind Iron Lace. When not writing she is switching between chasing children and deciding if crafts are still her thing. Her writing draws readers in, and her next novel will keep the pages turning.
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
I’m not really sure. A dissatisfaction with het romance I guess. I tend to like heroines who are a bit different from the standard damsel in distress. I have always been more interested in the hero of those stories than the heroine. I never put myself in her place, instead I put myself in his place but wanted another hero. The whole what if I just write two heroes instead of one idea was there for a long time before I acted on it. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
I have no idea how to answer either of these questions really. I can’t really pin point where my career began. I’ve been doing this writing thing for nearly twenty years. My first book was published in 2005. Second in 2010. Third in 2011. But it wasn’t until late 2011 when two books came out back to back that I had any real sales happen. And I chalk that up to sheer dumb luck. About the second question. I wouldn’t say my fan base is humongous. But like anything else, word of mouth. People like me or hate me and they tell their friends.
What was it like moving from Florida to Alabama? Has the move influenced your writing?
Oh, man, that was more than twenty years ago. And really there’s not much difference. I grew up in a very rural section of Florida and now I live in a small city. That’s about the only difference. At home the worst traffic was getting behind a tractor hauling a peanut wagon. Or two cars ahead of you at the stop sign when you’re late for school. Here you have to plan around traffic and know alternate routes and people have a tendency to run out in the street in front of you. At home all we worried about was a stray cow jumping a fence or the neighbor’s dog chasing you down a dirt road.
As far as how the move influenced my writing…I can write fairly confidently about either country or city life. Other than that I’m pretty much out of my element.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
Honestly, my daughter’s teachers or her school. That’s about it. But that holds for any erotic romance genre not just M/M. I chose to use a pen name long before I wrote my first M/M book. There is still a stigma in romance especially erotic romance. A “those” books mentality. I’d prefer not to have a visit from CPS because I write sex books with a small child in my home. But my daughter has a tendency to tell everyone her mother writes naked man books sooo….I’m sure there aren’t many people out there who don’t know by now.
What was it like to be a finalist in the 2012 Passionate Plume awards with Wicked Game?
The Passionate Plume is an industry award and probably second only to the Rita as far as contemporary romance goes. So yeah, that was a big deal to me. I placed fourth overall and really it was just stunning to even to be in that company.
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
I can’t answer for other women. I know for me it’s a case of equality and power and who has it and who doesn’t. In real life my husband is my equal partner and I’m his. I’ve never been a damsel and I can’t relate to het romance anymore. When I was younger yes. Now, I look for strong women characters who are equal to their “heroes”. I look for women who are their own “heroes” and the men who respect them….and I can’t find those books. It seems that the Mary Sue character is the standard issue now in het.
In gay, and I do prefer the term gay romance to MM, you have two people on equal footing. What the writer does with them is what makes the story. Taking hard men and giving them demons to conquer, yeah that gets me going. Everyone is equal, there’s no get me a sandwich thing going on….unless that’s what the other guy wants.
So, nutshell, I like the we’re in this together no matter what thing that comes with gay romance. And if they happen to go out and shoot bad guys or throw the football around together…then win/win.
What was it like writing the relationship between Cass Pendleton and Jaime Dalton?
I wrote Wicked Game for NaNoWriMo in 2010. All of it. All 62,000 words were written in 30 days. I didn’t sleep or eat or bathe. Helps that my knee was busted and I was pretty much bed ridden at the time but honestly that’s all I remember about writing that book. Just write. Get that word count in. Is it good? Who knows. Write. Write. Write. I don’t remember what was going through my head when I wrote it. I had no basis. Just two people with the same personality trying not to kill each other. I’ve never done NaNo again.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I’m doing the final edit pass for my first shifter book, Shift in Time. It’s set to release on July 24th. After that I start work on the final Southern Scrimmage book with hopes to have it ready by late October or early November, but it will more than likely be December.
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
I’m a pantster. As in I write from start to finish by the seat of my pants as if the hounds of hell are chasing me. I don’t edit or revise before I finish the first draft. I don’t plot. I never plot. At most if I’m writing a sequel I have a list of names and personal data about each character so that I can, hopefully, keep that much straight in the new book. But after that it’s purely a case of stream of conscious writing. When I’m finished with the first draft I go back and read it from beginning to end. Just a cold read. No note taking or tweaking. Then I start the rewrite. I try to go back and layer in foreshadowing in the beginning when I didn’t have much idea where the book was going. But usually it’s just making sure everything makes sense and everyone has the same name they started with. Third draft is typically after my beta readers have read it. Hopefully by then I can send it on to my editor without worrying about a what the hell is this crap note coming back to me.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
Depending on length. A really long novel takes around six months, more if you factor in the sanity breaks. A medium length novel usually takes me around three to four months.
What inspired your character Caleb Mitchell in Behind Iron Lace?
This is probably the only book I’ve written that actually has a back story. Behind Iron Lace was hatched in a Waffle House on a freezing Saturday morning. My friend Falyn Donaldson challenged me to write a nerd/bad boy story. Caleb Mitchell came from my obsession with Kings of Leon and unfortunately my daughter was watching The Frog Princess and Caleb started talking like the firefly….sooo yeah, not so sexy now, is it?
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?
As far as writing gay romance….be true to the men in your story. Remember they are men not women. If you’re going to write sex, then please know something about it. That goes for all genres not just MM. Don’t stereotype. But really be true to your men.
How to build an audience from scratch? Write a second book. Then a third. A fourth. A fifth. Keep writing. Know your market. Get your books in the hands of reviewers and readers who will help you build word of mouth. Don’t read reviews. Seriously on that last one. But really write. Most people don’t hit the best seller lists with their first books. Most people never hit the best seller lists. Go into this knowing you can’t quit your day job and write. Just write.