This special episode features an event Jeff hosted for Barbara’s Bookstore in Chicago featuring Philip William Stover, author of The Hideaway Inn, and Elia Winters, author of Hairpin Curves. In this conversation, Philip and Elia talk about their books, their use of similar tropes and giving LGBTQ characters a happily ever after. They also discuss their early romance reading, writing, as well as what’s coming up next for them.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- “Big Gay Fiction Live” featuring the Widdershins RPG Kickstarter Launch Event on Facebook (October 1 @ 8pm ET)
- Philip William Stover and Elia Winters Interview
- Barbara’s Bookstore website
- Philip William Stover: website | Twitter | Instagram
- Elia Winters: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters (Amazon | Barbara’s Bookstore | Libro.fm)
- The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover (Amazon | Barbara’s Bookstore | Libro.fm)
- Schitt’s Creek on Netflix
- Little House on the Prairie on Prime Video
- Comes in Threes series by Elia Winters on Amazon
- National Novel Writing Month website
- Purely Professional by Elia Winters on Amazon
- Wifey by Judy Blume on Amazon
- Carina Adores on Carina Press website
- P.G. Kain on Amazon
- Romantic Vintage Finds (Philip’s Etsy Store) on Etsy.com
- The Ladies Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (Amazon | Barbara’s Bookstore | Libro.fm)
- The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite (Amazon | Barbara’s Bookstore | Libro.fm)
- Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker on Amazon
- Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II by Allan Bérubé on Amazon
- Coming Out Under Fire documentary on Vimeo
- Beauchamp Hall by Danielle Steel (Amazon | Barbara’s Bookstore | Libro.fm)
- The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr (Amazon | Barbara’s Bookstore | Libro.fm)
- Thornfruit by Felicia Davin on Amazon
- Nowhere series by Felicia Davin on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Interview Transcript – Philip William Stover and Elia Winters
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: I am so excited to be talking to these two authors today. They’ve written two of my very favorite books that I’ve read this summer.
Welcome Elia to the screen.
Elia: Thank you so much for having me. Hi, it’s great to be here.
Jeff: I also have Phillip William Stover. Welcome.
Philip: Hello. Thank you.
Jeff: So, as I said, I have adored both, “Hairpin Curves” and “The Hideaway Inn.” And I want to start with Elia. Tell us all about “Hairpin Curves” and this wonderful story that you’ve written.
Elia: “Hairpin Curves” is, it’s at its heart a road trip story. It’s a second chance frenemies to lovers road trip romance. And the premise is that these two women used to be best friends and they had a falling out over a misunderstanding at the end of high school. And now they’ve been invited to go to a former friend’s wedding up in Quebec.
She’s moved away. She doesn’t know they’ve had this fall, so they are forced to sort of get back together to make this trip and they’re going to drive it. So two people stuck in a car who have some ill feelings for each other, and we all know how it ends up from there.
Jeff: And Phillip, “The Hideaway Inn.”
Philip: “The Hideaway Inn” is a summer romance and it’s about a guy named Vince who leaves the place where he grew up to reinvent himself as this alpha male. And he comes back to town, this Rivertown, which is actually a real town in Pennsylvania called New Hope, and he buys this inn hoping it will impress the farm boy who broke his heart and hoping he will show him the big man he’s become.
And the farm boy is not impressed at all. It has every cozy summer cliche you can think of… I try to jam in the book like a pot of jam.
Jeff: And we’ll stay with you, Philip, what was your inspiration behind “The Hideaway Inn.”
Philip: The inspiration behind the book was actually, I’ve been writing a while and I always wanted to write a book based on the lavender’s, which are these windows in 19th century townhomes in Boston when they were installed, they had an imperfection in them that turned the clear windows lavender.
And people were very upset and first and thought these were imperfections. And then later they became a sign of beauty and something that was really sought after in the community. And I always thought about those windows about something that is, you think, as a flaw and then suddenly that flaw becomes something precious or something important to you.
And this is a story about a character who thinks he has this flaw, which is he grows up gay and is teased for being a feminine. He really tries to cover it up and he tries to protect himself with that. And I wanted to write this book where he discovers that the thing he thought he had to cover up is the very thing he needs to access in order to have love in his life.
Elia: That’s beautiful. I’ve also never heard of these windows.
Philip: They’re in Boston. Oh, well you get yourself over to Boston and it’s Beacon Hill. Is that a place in Boston? I don’t know Boston very well, except I know there’s windows. And I remember, yeah. That story had, and this was a very long time ago. So it had a profound effect and they’re quite beautiful if you see them,
Jeff: We know where you’re going is maybe your next road trip out. Right. Go, go, go find these window. What was the inspiration for “Hairpin Curves?”
Elia: Well, I wanted to write a book that really pulled together a lot of my favorite tropes and I love road trip stories and had never written one, but I’m just drawn to them.
I think part of that is because I grew up making road trips. My parents wouldn’t fly and we lived across the country from my family, Florida and Massachusetts. So we would make this road trip like as far back as I can remember once or twice a year. It was just such a formative part of my youth.
And when I got older, like I did start flying on my own, but keep coming back to the road trip as this like, place that exists outside of everything else, like the car becomes its own world and I’ve had road trips with friends and I’ve rode with family. And I think it’s sort of a magical space where anything can happen.
And I thought that combining a road trip with a romance was a really fun idea. And so I got to do snowstorms and only one bed and all the things that I really enjoy and forced proximity, in this one book.
Jeff: I like how you mentioned the forced proximity. Cause it wasn’t just the occasional sharing of one bed. Of course they’re forced proximity cause they are in this car for days as they go from Florida to Montreal. I mean, it was a huge road trip that zigzagged all over the place.
Philip: They’re only allowed to go two hours out of the way. That was the rule. I love a good rule.
Jeff: How did you decide where to send them on this trip? Cause it was not a straight shot up through North America, as you might think it could be.
Elia: Yeah. So, there were actually a lot of changes in that, between my initial draft and between my outline and my draft. I thought about some of the places that I knew and really liked and tried to imagine in my character’s mind, where would she want to go?
So she’d want to see, because Megan has never been out of Florida, she’d want to see New York city she’d want to see Washington DC. She’d want to experience like those big places, but I want it to also weave in little things that she might’ve read about in a magazine or seen somewhere that just become representative of more than what they are, like seeing the sunrise on Tybee Island in Georgia.
Like it’s not even that far away. I’ve actually never been there. I’ve been to most of the places on this list. But as I was like coming up with this whole roster, I started to think about places that could mean more than just the place, places that could have an impact on these characters. And some of my favorites, I did cut one big one originally, like one, if you’ve ever made this road trip, South of the border is this horrifying rest area, not even, it’s like this tourist area on the North Carolina/South Carolina border that became famous for these billboards that run the entire length of two States. It’s such a problematic place and complicated and its relationship to race them history is really complex. And as I started writing it, I’m like, there’s no way that these characters would know enough to do this justice.
So I just cut it entirely. But that’s a scene on the cutting room floor.
Jeff: For a DVD extra one day or something. I’m curious. I think most road trip books usually start in the summer or the spring. At least you’ve done yours in the winter. And also it was a little different because most weddings typically are summer, but this was a winter wedding.
What drove the winter aspect of it?
Elia: Well, I really wanted my characters to get snowed in. And also I think that if you live in the South and you live in the South for a really long period of time, that’s all you’ve ever lived. The idea of snow is much more magical than it actually is when you live there.
As someone who’s spent 11 years in Florida as a kid, I remember just how mythical it was. And I wanted a way to incorporate that. Plus all my experiences with Quebec, almost all of them are in the winter. So write what you know.
Jeff: And Philip for you, as you said, this was a summertime story set in this really wonderful small town that is a real place. How did you decide to land Hideaway Inn where you did?
Philip: Well, it’s the closest town to where our house is. So I picked it that way. New Hope is a town I first came to when I was 12, when my parents didn’t want to pay for summer camps, put me in the course of musicals , which I’m not saying made me gay, but I’m not saying it didn’t and I’m not saying it didn’t help. They would drop me off at the Bucks County Playhouse, where I played a munchkin in the “Wizard of Oz” and, I remember it had a really like gay vibe to that city. And this was a while ago. And as I live in New York and we have a house in Bucks County, and we had been going to New Hope and I really wanted to write something about a small town because I had had an experience or an evolution as a gay person where, when I graduated high school and college, I thought I have to go to the city because that’s what many people do when you’re gay, you have to get out of where you are and go someplace new. And in the same way that Vince, this character chooses masculinity, it’s not so much of a choice sometimes. Sometimes it is the way of survival. So I wanted to rewrite that history a little bit and have this character look at small towns as an option and as a choice, and to be able to return to them.
As a place that is safe because they were never safe places for me growing up, even not just growing up, but with my husband and travel as two gay men, it’s always, you know, there’s always a bit of danger involved in that. So I wanted to create a place that was entirely safe. And a what I like to think of as a new American tapestry, it is a tapestry of people, of all sexual orientations, of all gender expressions of all ethnicities and lots of different experiences and ages of people.
And I’ve really wanted to create this very crazy quilt tapestry there.
Elia: It makes me think of like the way I love “Schitt’s Creek” and the way so many people love “Schitt’s Creek” is this sense of a small town that is also loving and warm and safe and how much safety matters, especially in romance and the way we feel emotionally safe when we’re reading it.
And we need to feel like we’re being taken care of and that the characters are going to be taken care of. And that’s so important.
Philip: The people who will get this reference will get it. I always love Mankato, but I never thought I would be safe there. It’s a “Little House on the Prairie” reference. You know, I love that town, but I never thought I would be able to walk down the street there.
So I wanted to create a Mankato where we could walk down the street and it is based on this real place. That is nothing is as gay as the New Hope I have created. I don’t know what happens to people when they go over the bridge of the Delaware river, something happens and they get to new hope and they are like, something happens to them.
New hope is very gay, but it’s, I’ve really kind of leaned into that part of it.
Jeff: And I like your “Schitt’s Creek” reference too. We’ve just started watching that show. We’re in season five right now. And I definitely see the connections with the kind of town Phillip has made, because nobody is homophobic there.
They’re just all they’re kooky, but they’re not mean, and they’re all very embracing and helpful of each other and that’s, we all need that in society.
It’s interesting. These two books, the tropes are very similar almost across the board. It’s the second chance, there’s enemies or frenemies to lovers if you will. Everything tracks back to high school. What is it about working in these tropes that attracted both of you.
Philip: Well how can I say, I mean, you know, my most unrequited love was when I was 17. So, I kept that burning all of these years and that was, that’s what I think of romance.
That’s what I think of it happening and one always wants to revisit those stories and sort of have a different ending than they had. My husband is safely tucked downstairs by the way. So he will never hear this part of it. One wants to imagine what could have been in that. That was my inspiration of it.
And also I think there is such an impact on how we are treated in high school and as children in our romantic experiences, that the things that have really hurt us and damaged us then are the things that prevent us from loving now. I mean, I believe that just as an adult who doesn’t write romance, I was an adult in a relationship.
So I really wanted to write a story about someone… Like this story has a relationship to the characters masculinity. And when you were teased for your masculinity, it has an impact on how you relate to other males and your relationship to masculinity. And I really want it to start, teasing that apart as being somewhat on the other side of it, although you never really got all the way on the other side of these issues, right?
My people are older, yours are so young. I was so jealous because they are about 10 years younger than mine and have their whole lives ahead of them.
Elia: I generally write characters who are older than these characters, and I think in some ways they also feel a little bit younger than they are.
And part of that, I think ties into the high school connection. I feel like sometimes if you’re away from someone that you were really close with in high school, when you’re back with them, there’s almost a regression that happens, especially if in the case of Megan and Scarlett there’s unfinished business.
And so it’s hard not to fall back on. When, when the hurt is never healed, the hurt becomes prominent again. And you become the person you were when that hurt first happened. And if that makes sense, I also wanted to… both of my characters are bisexual and Scarlett has known it since she was very young and Megan didn’t know it until, until college.
And so you have this situation where there’s a little bit of realizing that we’re both queer. But also how being at different stages of your sexual identity. When you’re last with someone like how that can also play out in the patterns you set up in the way you rekindle your relationship.
I thought that while I didn’t want it to feel like super high schooly when the that’s where the root of the conflict started. And you’ve got to go back to that until you can move past that.
Jeff: Do you think that these played more into LGBTQ stories a little bit, because there’s always that as Phillip mentioned, the unrequitedness that happens in the past, because we can’t be ourselves, perhaps when we’re younger, I think that’s changing for the generation today but certainly I think what we all grew up.
Philip: I think for my generation or for me, the balance between wanting to be loved and wanting to be safe is always a struggle. When you grow up LGBTQ, you want to be loved but you also don’t want to be beaten up. So you have to find a better balance between these two things.
One of my beta readers, I send her something she’s like, Oh, your characters always want the same thing. They want to be safe. And I’m like, well, no kidding. They want to be safe because until you feel safe, you can’t be loved, I think. Right. I don’t know, but that’s kind of why I think they go hand in hand if, if not anything else.
So I think those are maybe they’re unique to maybe they’re a part of everyone’s experience, but I definitely think they’re part of the LGBTQ experience.
Elia: Yeah. I think it is interesting to think about. How the people’s relationship to their own identity has changed even so significantly in my own life.
Like I didn’t come into an understanding of my own sexuality until adulthood. And part of that is just because as a bi person, I didn’t know anybody else who was bi until college. I barely knew anyone who was out and I have friends who were about six or seven, so almost from 39 and a half.
No problem saying that I have friends who are in their early thirties. I like the half because it’s something you do as a kid. And I like to bring that back as an adult, there are nine and a half. I’m almost 40. I have friends who are six, seven years younger than me. Who had representation their whole lives.
And just in that time period, and I think it also depends on where you grow up and what your family’s like and their relationship to being able to question like having the opportunity to try to define themselves. They had more freedom in that even in just six, seven years, then I did a little bit earlier.
It makes me really excited for the people growing up today and how much more vocabulary they have and just how many more options they have to create different variations of their own stories.
Jeff: Absolutely. One of the things that’s always interesting in romance novels to me are the side characters. It’s interesting elia that there are virtually no side characters in your book because it’s the two on the road trip. There’s a little bit up front as they’re getting going, and then certainly once they’re up in Montreal, there is, you know, the wedding to attend. But other than that, it’s a situation where they’re interacting maybe along the way with an innkeeper or a store person or somebody, but it’s them.
How did that affect how you wrote, to be able to have them say everything they needed to say, but they couldn’t call up the BFF and say, Oh my God, this is happening?
Elia: It was so hard.
This is my 10th published book. And the first one where I have just these characters and the patterns that I kept falling into, that I go through with my other books where I’m like, okay, this is like a good place for them to be like having a conversation with someone else.
And none of that. Can’t have any of that. I came from this last trilogy I put out last year, the “Comes in Threes” trilogy is also all around this whole town and having this whole community. So to go from that, to these two characters in the car, felt like really, some intense pandemic isolation vibes right there that I was not anticipating.
I like figuring out what they’re going to talk about. And when I had a lot of great help with my editor, who’s like, I think they’ve already covered this ground. Like how can we… what’s the next step for this? And because I often write out of order, it was a little bit of a mess in editing, but I’m really happy with how it ended up.
Man, side characters are great.
Jeff: Well, you know, there was such an intimacy with the book. Like I literally at times felt like I was just hanging out in the backseat as all of this conversation kept happening, or I was, you know, adjacent in their room or whatever, because it was that intimate. And I really found that very interesting cause you don’t get that all the time and especially through the whole book.
Elia: Thanks. I wanted that feel to it, but it’s sometimes hard to know if you’re just kind of screaming to get out of the car sometimes. And the ways that conversations like go forward and then back again, when you’re with someone for an extended period, you’re like, all right, we’re going to start at the familiar ground and then try out new things.
Jeff: And then Philip your book is like a side character palooza, almost. Cause as you said, you made like the gayest town possible. And it really gave Vince and Tack a lot of places they could go to have their “I have to talk to you about this,” or at least pivot around the discussion. How did you decide your side characters? Because there was a lot there to choose from.
Philip: I came from writing middle grade and tween fiction. So in that it’s really important to create those experiences for children because that’s really where they’re modeling and seeing those worlds.
So, I kind of carried that over. You know, when I was a kid, I watched the PBS, “Great Performance” of “Our Town” with Charlotte Rae as the shopkeeper in the cemetery. Do you remember the scene? And all the people in the cemetery sit on the hillside and they all sit in chairs and each person from our town comes up and says something to Emily.
I always love that scene. And so I kind of recreated it on my own our town where everybody gets a little voice into it. And that carries over into book two where the town is like, mild horror movie in terms of it, it begins to think on its own. That happens in book two, the town almost gets a consciousness and begins to work together to get this other couple together.
So that’s how that came up.
Jeff: Ooh, I’m excited now for book two. I was anyway, but now that had that little extra tease, it’s like, Hmm.
Elia: You wrote middle grade and tween, and now you’re doing romance. What was that transition like?
Philip: Oh, well, you know, tweens and drama Queens are not so different, my dear,
Elia: Yeah, I teach high school.
Philip: Exactly. You know, the difference between that and like gay romance for me, it’s like, it’s just that the emotions are a little higher on which side? I don’t know, but on one of them, I guess . I started writing women’s fiction. So adult women, a little older than where, my characters are now, so I’ve really run it all over. People are people and all of my characters are the same in that they’re all like, kind of, middle-aged divorcées from the Upper West Side. And, but then they’re also tweaked and they’re also gay men. Like I have a voice and I kind of find a way to have that voice speak.
Jeff: It’s an interesting trajectory. What was your trajectory into romance Elia?
Elia: I’ve been writing since I was a kid and I write, I wrote everything.
Recently somebody on Twitter was asking like, what are the novels you haven’t published? And so I’d never gone through and made a whole list by year, and it is like a wild ride from my “Star Wars” fan fiction in high school full length novels to like romance, horror, YA, a lot of sci-fi, a lot of high fantasy.
I kept gravitating back to romance that there were always romantic threads in my books. That was something that I really enjoyed writing. I used to definitely just write standalone sex scenes as like a high schooler. I pass those suckers around in my Catholic school to all my friends, very popular, never got caught.
Knock wood. I mean, I don’t think they’ll get, I don’t think they can get me now. And, so for my 10th year of National Novel Writing Month in 2010, I decided I was going to write a novel. That was just for me that I wasn’t going to try and publish or make marketable or anything and wrote the novel that became “Purely Professional,” which was BDSM, erotic romance.
And after I finished it, I went, Oh God, I wrote this novel just for me, but now, I think this is the best thing I’ve ever written so far. And then I had to figure out whether I wanted to write romance as a career and stick to that genre because at least while establishing myself, I thought that’s what I would want to do.
It just aligned so well with my feminism and my sex positivity that I just love being here. And I like it. I might write other genres as well. But I like staying in romance.
Jeff: And how’s romance for you, Philip. I mean, you’ve had your other genres as well. And you like staying here the best?
Elia: No pressure.
Philip: I’ve always had a romantic element in my fiction. I think, like you just said, it’s always been a part of what happens and I grew up reading romance. That was always a big part of my life. It was something I was always, I mean, to be honest, I was ashamed of it.
I thought it was something like the lavender’s. It was a weakness. I though growing up, but now it becomes a strength, but I didn’t know that as a kid. So I tore the covers off. I had these elaborate rituals for purchasing romance, where I would flip the books over where no one was looking so I could read the back covers.
And then when I would purchase them, I would always say, “Oh, I think these are the ones my sister wanted.” Just to kind of create a decoy event for the romance. And I read heterosexual romance. Is that what you call it? I know that sounds odd, but yes, heterosexual romance, otherwise known as romance, I guess.
I don’t know what that is, but I read heterosexual romance and then I wrote heterosexual romance and I didn’t know there was gay romance. Like I was, I don’t know what I was doing. I was taking a nap when that was all rising up. I was doing something else. And then all of a sudden my Amazon feed start popping, you know, in gay romance.
And I was like, Oh, that’s the book thing I want to write. I didn’t know it was a thing. So that’s how I landed there it feels great. And it feels weird because I never thought, you know, that would be a thing I could do, but it was clearly what I always wanted to do. Like the “Silhouette” romances were like huge for me as a kid.
Elia: I used to sneak my mother’s romance novels, and I got really good at like speed reading and skimming through them and like leaving them exactly where she had left them. And apparently, somehow even when I started making it a career, she didn’t realize that I had done that until I mentioned it in my RITA acceptance speech last year, she calls me the next day and said, I did not know you were sneaking my romances all those years ago.
Philip: Was it Judy Blume? Was it “Wifey?” Remember “Wifey?”
Elia: Oh my, gosh.
Philip: Of course. Yeah, that was a big one.
Elia: She was reading like some really high heat historicals back then, like, wow. Like really, really, really torrid stuff. I love it. So when I cut my teeth.
Philip: My mom too. My mom was a big reader. Our garage was converted to bookshelves with only books in them. My mom had a big influence on me and I always tell my students, she said, if you have a book you’re never bored and you’re never lonely.
Elia: I love that.
Philip: Yeah. And I always did and it’s true. It’s like when you have a book you’re Oh, you’re okay.
Jeff: I love the idea of the entire garage as books.
Philip: It wasn’t only books in the garage and evening gowns, but that’s a different story.
Jeff: We’ll talk about that at some other time.
Phillip, you mentioned the rise of gay romance has kind of come up, you know, particularly in like last year, 10 to 15 years. Even in the five years we’ve been doing the podcast. I mean, there’s just more and more and more and more, we’re seeing imprints, like Carina creating Adores, which both of your books are part of and it’s really incredible to see this continued growth in the marketplace. How do you two feel is now being part of that and being inside the Adores line and getting these books out? I mean, I’ve seen pictures of both of your books out in the wild which is amazing.
How does that feel for you two?
Elia: Oh, God, it’s freaking awesome. Oh my gosh. I’ve been publishing since a while. This is my 10th published book and I have never been able to go into a Barnes and Noble and sign one before. I’ve been all digital first lines and traditionally published, but, traditionally published in lines that weren’t going to print runs.
Separately from that, when I was first writing, nobody was acquiring f/f that I knew of. And so I wrote, I’ve written all different combinations and I still love doing that. And I’ll still like, I’m going to write my next series is f/f, but I’m interested in writing everything, but to have like a major line, prioritizing it and putting it in bookstores is, is so exciting.
And I hope the start of even better things to come.
Philip: I mean, it’s been confusing for me because when I wrote tween, I wrote under P.G. Kain, I go by P.G. and those books are girl power books. They are pink has been, can be, but also strong. There’s a one series. It’s about a girl scientist. The other series is about, girls in commercials, right?
Like they’re really girl books. So I remember when I was getting a new agent and we had emailed each other and they invited me to lunch and of course they thought I was female. And when I showed up, it was a big surprise to that. And when I would do book signings at schools, I would go and they’d be like, what’s going on?
This is very strange to them. It wasn’t to me. I mean, I just wrote the book and now I write m/m romance and I’m. You know, that has flipped because m/m romance is written a lot by women. So now I’m writing in my own voice, but I’m still on the other side of the equation and being that minority voice. So I don’t know how I’ll get, I have to get it right somehow.
And I haven’t found it yet. I don’t know where I belong.
Jeff: You belong right here.
Philip: I know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Jeff: So Phillip, you mentioned that “Hideaway Inn” is part of a series and that the second book is coming. What can you tease out more about the series and anything you could tell us about when that book’s going to land in our hands?
Philip: That book comes out at the end of January and it’s called “The Beautiful Things Shop” and it is about an antique store in New Hope. And, it’s mentioned in the first book and there was a character from it. They’re two new owners come into that shop. One is a fine arts collector of 19th century antiques, who has a degree from U Penn and collects armature and, fountain pens and Victorian fans. And the other is a guy who collects Muppet lunchboxes and Scooby-Doo mugs and mid-century stuff. And it’s about a clash of aesthetics and a clash of wills. And there are actually two buildings in New Hope, a mid century bank and a 19th century house that are right next to each other.
And they’re about to be destroyed in the community because they share a support wall and it’s about how the community comes together to both save their relationships and help them create a relationship and save these two incredibly different buildings.
Elia: That’s awesome.
Philip: I’ve dueling Etsy stores that will go live in January because I have my own Etsy store, of course and all of the things in the book are in my Etsy store. Now you would think that was brilliant marketing, but I assure you it’s a lack of creativity because I would think like, Oh, what could they use? And I’d look at my shelf and I’d be like, oh, my hamburger Crocs. Yeah, those are great. And I would write it and I was, then I thought, Oh, wait a minute.
So all genius comes after the fact, I cannot take credit for it, but it’s a lack of creativity that created that.
Elia: One of my favorite things to do on vacation that I’m I miss because we’re, you know, we’re in the pandemic times, my best friend and I, she got me started on this. When we go into antique shops, we look for the old postcards and go through and read people’s postcards.
And they are sometimes really boring, but often hilarious. Like you have three lines to write, what is it that you’re going to say? And just, people writing like really formal, passive, aggressive letters to the other person about not having written and you like these little hints and there’ll be something like, and John got the flu and like just farrowing all of this out, but I love the treasures that you can find in cool places like that.
Do you go into shop and go looking at cool stuff?
Philip: That is a thing I miss most during the pandemic. I mean, I am a bargain hunter and a, you know, I specialize in women’s vintage handkerchiefs that will surprise no one who’s been listening closely. At one garage sale before the pandemic there was this woman and I saw a big basket of them. And this woman came up and said, you know, I used to buy these all over the place and now I can’t find them anywhere. And I thought that’s because I’m buying them all.
So, yes, I have a competitive aspect to it. As you can tell, I love old things. My husband would live in a stainless steel sink if he could and wash it out at the end of the day. So his aesthetic is completely the opposite of mine. I’d live in cabbage row. I want cabbage roses everywhere. The basis of this book comes out of a dueling aesthetic that can sometimes happen in relationships.
Elia: I kind of feel like this handkerchief thing is your villain origin story. I’m just expecting that down the road.
Philip: Do not come between me and a vintage handkerchief. It will get ugly.
Jeff: We have all been warned.
Elia, earlier you mentioned that you’re now working on an f/f series. “Hairpin” of course is a standalone, but what can you tell us about the series?
Elia: So it is in very early in the idea stage. Well, I guess it’s firmly rooted in the ideas and research stage. This series is, world war two, f/f historical romance.
So I am writing about women specifically WAC in the Signal Corps. So the first book is a pigeoneer and a telegraph operator. And then I’m also interested in writing, cryptographers, possibly, mechanics. I’ve got the blurb and the whole setup for book one and now I’m just so deep in research.
That’s all I’ve been reading to really understand , as much as I can, the experience of women, but also the experience of queer women and the jobs that they would be doing at this time and what that looks like on a day to day basis. I feel a great responsibility to get it right and to do right by these stories. So , once I finally get these blurbs put together, we’ll be pitching it and see who’s interested. I have no timeline. I have just hopes and lots of research pages about pigeons.
Jeff: I can’t wait. Looking so forward to that. I can’t imagine both the depth of the research and how fun that research might be too, to look back at that time with those women.
Philip: You had me a telephone operator. I think of Ernestine kind of plugging and unplugging.
Jeff: We’ve talked about the pandemic a little bit. Of course, we’re all sitting in the middle of that. What’s it been like to write and be creative at this time and keep moving forward on your projects?
Philip: I mean, for me, often I have a book in my head or creative project in my head and I have to, I don’t know what happens to it, but I go to teach or I go to the gym or whatever, and it goes somewhere else. I have to say now for me, it’s always there. So it’s like I have a different type of access to it. So that’s what it’s like for me.
Elia: it’s been interesting. I feel like a lot, especially at the beginning, I’m just operating my day to day life took a lot more emotional labor than I’m used to. And I was, like my first draft deadline for “Hairpin Curves” was March 31st. So I was doing a significant amount of the writing in the first weeks of the pandemic.
It felt really strange to be writing about these characters, going into restaurants and stuff and hotels, and just, you know, breathing around people irresponsibly. Now that I’ve sort of, I had to recreate routines and allow that structure. In order to be creative and as a teacher, just teaching remotely and how much extra time and effort that took.
I’m going into that again this week, but I feel like I’ve yeah, been able to keep writing and creating by just being a lot more diligent with my emotional health. Otherwise, because it’s so easy to just fall into the pit of despair and not understand why you can’t produce anything creative
Philip: You go to sleep and you were writing a contemporary and then you wake up and it’s a historical.
Elia: Oh my gosh. Yes.
Philip: It’s just suddenly it seems so antiquated. And you wonder, is that what we’ll be doing? I mean, I just have sort of moved ahead with it because that’s where I did.
Jeff: Dolorianne has a great question that I think I like it a lot. I wish I’d thought of it. The two parter that we’ll start with, which of your characters would you get along with the best?
Elia: Megan and Scarlett each have some of the best and worst aspects of my personality. I think that that’s pretty common when we write, we take little bits of ourselves and then build totally different aspects of ourselves.
I think that I would get along better with Megan than with Scarlett, because I think Scarlett’s outward confidence and boisterousness, especially if I knew them when I was in high school. I think that would have been really interesting for me. Nowadays, I think I would, I don’t know. I think it probably is the same. I think I’d still be intimidated by that level of outward confidence.
Philip: The restaurant manager in “The Hideaway Inn” is named Anita. She is an incredibly snarky, tells it like it is person and the only person who can kind of see through Vince right away and kind of yell at him and the original version of it she was at like 15 and I had to bring her down to like a 3. Which is just probably be where I am. Probably like it’s because I’m so that way. So, you know, I brought her down way down and she is based on a dear friend of mine and me. So would definitely be her because she is a real, she’s kind of a pain in the ass.
And that’s how I think of myself.
Jeff: And you can maybe imagine the flip side to this question, which of your characters would you butt heads with?
Elia: Gosh, I think they’d both drive me crazy at certain points. I think I’d be telling Scarlett to just tell the truth for once and, just own up to your mistakes. And I would be trying to drag Megan to do new adventures. I think the things that frustrate them are just things that are the things that each character finds frustrating and the other are things that I also find frustrating in both of them.
Philip: For me, I think I would say Anita, the manager of The Hideaway Inn because she’s incredibly difficult and, that’s, you know, difficult people are difficult. I know from experience.
Jeff: I’m not sure if I think it’s cheating that you picked the same character for both parts of the question.
Philip: And that’s what makes me difficult.
Elia: I now want just like the whole world, according to Anita, just like this, just her running narrative of everything.
Jeff: Anita should have her own podcast. That’s what it is. Now. She could just have her opinions put out there on a routine basis. Another question we have is what would be another genre that you would want to write in with queer main characters?
Philip: This is easy for me because it’s actually what I’m writing in there. It doesn’t mean it’s not a thing, but I don’t know. That’s what I want to write. I want to write women’s fiction with gay people. What is that called? I don’t know. I mean, we know of women’s fiction as a genre. It is often a story that has a romantic element, but it’s really more about self discovery in that genre.
So I want to write women’s fiction without women. Is that possible? I don’t, I mean, not that I don’t want there to be women in it, but I can’t find a name for it. So when I describe it to people, that’s how I describe it. It doesn’t make any sense, but imagine if you will, your favorite chick lit books with gay people as the protagonists.
Elia: I love reading YA, but have not written YA and I think as much as my agent would like love that, I think she would probably tear her hair out at the branding that would need to happen to keep my YA reader’s from just stumbling into a whole kink trove of erotic romance.
They may be reading it anyway, but I’m not endorsing that at all. I love the rise of, it’s not even the rise, there have been gay characters and queer characters in YA, but to not have it be tragedy anymore to not have the story be about outing or discovering your sexual identity or your gender identity, like…
Yes. Let’s more of that where characters just happen to be gay and go on adventures and do all the awesome things that happen in a YA.
Jeff: Yeah. I’m totally behind that entire push in YA, it’s just wonderful to see the characters just be where it’s like the least interesting thing about them.
So, my whole podcast is about book recommendations so what have you guys read this summer that you want everybody listening that as they go pick up your book from Barbara’s Bookstore, that they’re going to go get something else too?
Elia: Okay, this question is really hard for me because I’ll pass it over to you. And just a second, you can share more because the only things I’ve been reading lately have been like research books. My TBR though is really beautiful. I really like, gosh, I love historicals. I did like a whole binge read through the winter and I just loved “The Ladies Guide to Celestial Mechanics.” I’ve got “The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows,” which I’m really excited about reading. I also read “Fire on the Ice,” which is a previous one by Tamsen Parker. That was just super fun. So those are some f/f delights that I’m enjoying,
But if you want to read some intense nonfiction, I just finished “Coming Out Under Fire,” which is the history of gay men and women in world war II by Allan Bérubé. and that was just amazing. He also has a documentary. That’s just some fantastic, research reading, and just interesting history that doesn’t get talked about a lot.
Philip: I used to get this question. I used to lie because I wanted it to sound more interesting than I am, and I’ve decided that I’m not more interesting than I am. I’m just going to tell you the truth. And you’re going to have to listen to it and accept it.
So I finished Danielle Steel’s, “Beauchamp Hall”. I’ve always read Danielle Steel’s novels, and that woman never disappoints me. You know, it’s just so long, it just goes on and on and on and on. I just love it. I just read Robyn Carr’s “The Country Guesthouse,” which is so sweet. And boy, does she know how to make super sweet characters that are great.
And I think she has a Netflix series, which I didn’t know until I started the book. And I, listened to “Hairpin Curves,” which I loved, and I want to do a unsolicited plug for this by saying it is the type of book that you slide into very easily. It’s like a comfortable piece of clothing you put on it is the type of book where you’re in it.
And you’re so much further in it than you think you are, because it’s so comfortable to get to it has this great beginning this great setup, but it’s not like one of those setups where it’s like, okay, we know what’s going to just, it’s like, you really kind of have to play through each of the parts of it.
And it’s just such a lovely book. And I should say, I listened to it. Your narrator is great. I love her. She really did a wonderful job with it. Yeah. And I want another one in Florida because I did like the diner and all of that, but I just think it’s a wonderful book about really setting up these events and really having the relationship work through. So that’s my unsolicited plug. We have not met before this podcast we may never speak to each other again.
Elia: We better. I’m really enjoying this. I’m so excited about just this whole series that you’re putting out and just this town and New Hope. And I. I love it. And I love safe places and rich tapestries of people.
Philip: It’s like a Carole King record.
Jeff: Want to quickly ask about the audio too? Cause you’ve both got audio for your books. What was it like hearing your characters come to life in these cases?
Elia: It’s always a little weird. I gotta be honest. Cause it’s like my words, but it’s not my voice. And, it was really, really exciting. I got to be part of like having a hand in picking the person, which I’ve never gotten to do before. And so hearing different people. And then I was like, Oh yeah, that’s the one. It becomes so much more real when it’s in someone else’s voice.
Philip: I was excited for me because I said to my husband, that means at least one person is going to read this book. I was thrilled for that. It meant, at least now he might not have taken it in. Nobody got in, but at least one person read it from start to finish. I’m guaranteed. So I was thrilled.
Elia: I love that.
I’m good friends with Felicia Davin who wrote “Thronfruit” and she has, the “Nowhere” series. And, we used to do writing sessions all the time back when that was something you could do. And she records her own audio books, in the studio. And that sounds like the most traumatic thing.
I mean, maybe someday with a lot of more ego and maybe some booze, but she just like boldly goes and record these. And she’s like, yeah. So I have my sound mechanics sitting there listening to me, read this incredibly detailed sex scene.
Jeff: So one last opportunity for you both to pitch your book to these audiences, to get them to go pick it up.
Philip: I am desperate for approval. So if that in any way, influences you to read it and say something nice about it online, you have no idea how happy it makes me. So I am not afraid two, three or that said, I think if you are looking for books that have, You know, stories about gay lives and the way being gay influences lives – that’s the type of book I write. I also, something that we both share is I think we both write really cozy books. Like your book is so cozy as cozy as a, is it a Corolla? What are they driving? It’s all. It’s
Elia: No, it’s a Camry Solara
Philip: A Camry Solara. And that’d been as cozy as a Solara can be.
You know, but it’s still incredibly cozy. And that’s what I write too “The Beautiful Thing Shop” has ice skating and sleds and cookies and hot chocolate and a pot belly stove, and all of those things that draw me into books and make them feel like a nice hug. And though I don’t come across as a nice hug I think the books perhaps are.
Elia: You do come across as very nice hug.
Philip: That’s very nice. Thank you. I feel so good now. That’s great.
Elia: So these are, these are dark times, and I think it’s important to read and watch things that make you feel good. They make you feel like the world can be a beautiful place and things can turn out well. And I wanted to create that and maintain that in hairpin curves.
I wanted to do cozy. I wanted this to feel like the road trip that we aren’t taking right now, to see new places and to watch these characters just grow and come to love each other and admit that to themselves. I think the sex is really hot. So that’s a plus as well. I really pride myself on writing hot sex.
I think that “Hairpin Curves” is like, it’s got its angsty moments, but it’s not a dark book. And I think dark books have their place and I love them at times, but I want, I want you to read “Hairpin Curves,” and feel like it’s going to take care of you and these characters are going to have their happy ending.
Jeff: Yeah, I think you’ve both summed up the books wonderfully. Well, I will say that, you know, both of these sit, not yet just within my favorite books of the summer, but also like of the year so far too, they both are so full of happy and hope and can chase, as you said, the dark times away that we’re in.
And let us go somewhere in these times where you really can’t go anywhere. We can go to this wonderful town and take this wonderful trip , from the coziness of our own home. And they’re just so nice. This is what I love about gay romance or these kinds of low angst, very good, cozy, happy books.
There’s definitely a place for the angst and , but these hit my happy place. So I am so happy we got to talk about these because there are so, so good. Delightful. Where can people keep up with you online? Cause that’s something we should tell people as well.
Elia: I am on my main website is eliawinters.com and I’m on Twitter, pathologically, it’s just at eliawinters. I’m also on Instagram eliawintersauthor. I do did my toes into to the evil waters of Facebook. You can find me there for Elia Winters, but probably the best place to keep up with me is on Twitter.
Philip: I don’t like to brag about my social media presence, but just recently I passed a hundred followers. So, you know, that’s pretty big, a hundred, and most of them are like Russian bots, which is fine. But you can find me on Twitter. No one else has, but you might find me there. I’m on Instagram a lot. And I do take nice pictures of our dog and we have an incredibly cute dog and, we’ve lived near state park, so it takes some okay pictures. So you can find me on Instagram and I’m also at my website and email.
Jeff: Fantastic. I do love the pictures of your garden and the park and things. So thank you both so much. This has been so much fun and a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon and thanks to the folks who came and hung out with us as well.