Garrett Leigh joins us to talk about her new books. This week Unforgotten, a second chance, roommates to lovers story, is released and Garrett shares how the story of Billy and Gus came to be. We also talk about her involvement with the Vino & Veritas series and her book Heartscape that comes out in March. The book Redemption is also getting sequels later this year and she’ll discuss what brought her back to that story. Plus we find out what started her writing, her favorite tropes and a series she thinks everyone should read.
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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.
- Virtual Event: Philip William Stover discussing The Beautiful Things Shoppe with co-host of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast Jeff Adams at Doylestown Bookshop (Thursday, February 18 at 7pm ET/4pm PT)
- The Beautiful Things Shoppe by Philip William Stover on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- Garrett Leigh Interview
- Garrett Leigh: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok
- Unforgotten by Garrett Leigh on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- Forgiven by Garett Leigh on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- Vino & Veritas series by various authors on Amazon
- Heartscape by Garett Leigh on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm) (preorder until March 22, 2021)
- Featherbed by Annabeth Albert on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm) (preorder until March 15, 2021)
- Roommate by Sarina Bowen on Amazon
- True North series by Sarina Bowen on Amazon
- Dan Calley on Audible (audiobooks also on Libro.fm)
- Episode 281 – Sarina Bowen Introduces “Roommate” and a New Series on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Moo U Hockey series by various authors on Amazon
- Busy Bean series by various authors on Amazon
- Headstrong by Eden Finley on Amazon (preorder until March 22, 2021)
- Roan Parrish on Amazon
- Avril Ashton on Amazon
- Riley Hart on Amazon
- Only Love by Garrett Leigh on Amazon
- Annabelle Jacobs on Amazon
- Like Us series by Krista & Becca Ritchie on Amazon
- Redemption by Garrett Leigh on Amazon
- Deliverance by Garrett Leigh on Amazon (preorder until May 20, 2021)
- 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 – Garrett Leigh
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Garret, welcome to the podcast. It is so wonderful to have you here.
Garrett: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’ve been an avid listener for a long time. So it’s a real honor to be on the radio with you.
Jeff: We’ve got so much to talk about because you’re having quite a run here in February and March. And it starts off with a release that happens this week with “Unforgotten,” which is the second book in the “Forgiven” series. And that first book only just came out as well. Tell us about this series.
Garrett: Well, this series began with a MF book called “Forgiven,” which is the first book in the series. And it’s a book that I wrote quite a few years ago and then kind of shelved because my main work, as you know, is in MM, and I’ve kind of forgot about it. And then I got a new laptop, and you know you have to do that horrible transition from one laptop to the other, and it’s just really traumatic. And, anyway, I found this file, and I thought, “Oh, I forgot about this.” And I shopped it around a bit. And Harlequin said, “Yeah, we’d really like to publish that.” So they took it off me and they went through the edits. And then they came back to me and said, “There’s two brothers in this book who we’d really, really like to see you write in future books.” And as it turned out, those two brothers, one of the female character’s brother and then the male character’s brother, actually fit really well together. And that’s how we ended up with Gus and Billy in “Unforgotten.”
Jeff: That’s really awesome. I like that Harlequin kind of took that lens on it, which they’re doing so much, I mean, with the Carina and the Carina Adores books.
Garrett: Yeah. I mean, the editorial team they have at Carina is really passionate about diversifying their line. And it just happened to work out really well this time with what I had already in the bank and kind of what we could create from what they wanted and what I already had. So it worked out really well. And Gus and Billy are just wonderful characters. I’m always shocked that I didn’t think to write their story in the first place. I’m quite disappointed in myself that it wasn’t my idea.
Jeff: What was it like revisiting them after the time had passed? So when you put them in that first book, too…
Garrett: I mean, it was years. It was literally four years in between one book and the next with the writing. And actually, I think in the end, it worked out really well because I had all this time to not think about it, and then I suddenly I was thinking about it. And perhaps I think if I jumped from one book into the other, it might have been a bit more rushed, and the characters wouldn’t have been quite as developed. Because I think even when you’re not thinking about characters, they’re still kind of percolating in the back of your mind somewhere. So they had all this time to develop. And Billy, in particular, by the time I came back to him four years later, I had a much better idea of who he was and where I wanted him to go. So it kind of worked out. I mean, I wouldn’t always recommend it because sometimes you go away from a book and you never think about it ever again. But this time, it panned out quite well.
Jeff: What do you hope people take away from specifically, I guess, “Unforgotten?” But then the kind of taking the series as a whole because I noticed that in this particular instance, not only are the two books available standalone, but then they’ve also already been essentially put into a duology as well.
Garrett: Yes. Well, in “Forgiven,” you’ve got the main female character is Mia. And she left her hometown and went to live in France and had a terrible marriage. And then she’s returned to her hometown to start over, leaving…her little brother, Gus, was still in her hometown. So she’s come back to live with him and open her flower shop. But unbeknownst to her, while she’s been away, her high school sweetheart, I suppose you would say in America, has also returned to the hometown. And Luke left his hometown to join the Navy when they were 18. She never forgave him because he kind of left in the night and she never knew where he was going. It was awful. So that book kind of centers on them rebuilding their relationship and her forgiving him.
And then in the background, you’ve always got that Luke didn’t just leave Mia, he left Billy, his little brother, as well. It’s a parallel between what Mia had to forgive Luke for to what Billy has to forgive him for as well. And when Billy comes back, he ends up living with Gus. And then Gus is kind of this lovely burly, gentle giant of a man. But underneath all that, everything that’s gone on with Mia and Luke, with Luke and Billy has hurt him as well. So it’s really interesting to see how Billy’s issues with forgiving Luke are very obvious, but with Gus, everything’s a lot more subtle. And it was kind of exploring the same issues but from very different points of view. And the series as a whole, I suppose, is more about family and those bonds that however angry you may be with someone, love is always still there.
Jeff: That’s really lovely how these two bind together in that way.
Garrett: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, because you’ve got that the sibling relationships are so strong between all of them. And kind of writing this romance into this deep family bond was quite complex, but it’s really nice. It’s really sweet.
Jeff: How much adjustment did you have to make in the first book to allow for that more binding together and creating the second one?
Garrett: Well, in the first book, Gus’s relationship with his sister, Mia, is already very strong. He’s a really, really lovely man. And she’s quite fiery and a bit more sharp edged. Their mother died when they were teenagers, so they’re very close. They’re all each other have, and it’s really nice. So that relationship was already there. But the relationship between Billy and his brother was a lot more distant because they hadn’t lived together or been in each other’s lives for a long time. So developing that relationship on top of developing Billy’s relationship with Gus was quite complex as well.
Jeff: It sounds like really satisfying work to go back and build that bridge and then do the additional book.
Garrett: It was a really, really nice experience. Billy is quite a sharp-edged character as well. He’s a little bit of a rascal. He comes when the book opens, and he’s living in a caravan at scrapyard where he’s working. And in the opening chapter of the book, he loses his job at the scrapyard for punching someone who kicks his cat. He’s quite a spiky character. You know, he’s got a quick temper. He can be quite rude when he’s not happy about something. That’s always a fun character to write. And then you’ve got Gus, who is just so nice, so easygoing, until the one moment when he isn’t. And that’s a pivotal moment in the book.
Jeff: That’s wonderful. Is there more expected in this series, or is it going to be just a duology?
Garrett: I think, at the moment, it’s just going to be a duology. There’s no loose characters floating around who need a story. But, you know, it’s possible that I would go back if it’s something that Harlequin wanted and write a novella where the two couples…kind of a glimpse into the future perhaps. It’s something we’ve talked about, but, I guess, you never know, do you? You never know. Nothing is ever completely finished.
Jeff: A Christmas reunion or something in the future perhaps.
Garrett: Yeah. Something nice with lots of cats, I don’t know.
Jeff: Now, next month, you’ve also got…on March 22nd, you got an installment in the multi-author “Vino and Veritas” series with “Heartscape.”
Garrett: I am so excited about this series. It’s been in the works for such a long time. We’ve put so much into it. To see it come out into the wild is just incredible.
Jeff: And you actually get a pivotal character to work with here because you’re working with Tanner, who actually owns the wine bar part of a bookstore.
Garrett: Yes. Well, he is the manager. He doesn’t own the bar. The bar is owned by Annabeth Albert’s character, Harrison, who appears in “Featherbed,” which is the first book in “Vino and Veritas.” But Tanner is kind of the human glue that holds the entire series together because he’s introduced in “Roommate,” which is Sarina Bowen’s kind of intro book into the queer line. And then he appears a few times in “Featherbed” as Annabeth’s character, Harrison, is opening the bar. And then in my book, the bar is open, and he’s the manager. And he appears in every book after that because he’s the manager.
It’s really, really cool, actually, because you get to see he’s kind of off page a lot in the first two books. So you get to kind of wonder who is this guy, and why are people so worried about him? Why do people care so much about this guy? Then you meet him, and you get to read his entire character arc, where you see everything that’s happened to him before that makes him who he is, you get to see him fall in love, you get to see his brother relationship develop with his brother, Gabriel. And that’s really nice. And then you see him in the subsequent books as the series goes on. You really do see a whole arc of development with Tanner that is quite unique, actually, because it does span every single book.
Jeff: And tell us more about Tanner’s story and what kind of unfolds in “Heartscape.”
Garrett: Well, Tanner is a Burlington native. He graduated from Colbry High School, which is a fictional town that Sarina created in the original “True North” books. But he left Burlington to… He has a brother called Gabriel, who is about 18 months younger than him, and it’s often remarked in most of the books that they look so alike that they could be twins. And they’re both these kind of dark-haired, dark-eyed, bearded mountain men, and they’re just lovely. But he leaves Burlington to work in mountain rescue in Alaska. And when he’s there in Alaska, there’s a couple of incidents on the mountains, you know, they lose people in various accidents and stuff, and he decides, you know, “This isn’t doing me any good. So I’m going to go home.”
So he comes back to Burlington, and he gets a job with Wild Foot Adventure, which is a fictional adventure company that works in the Vermont countryside, with the mountain trails, and wildlife, and stuff like that. So he gets a job as a ranger, and his job is to run the most low-key trail. So the man who owns the adventure company, because he knows what Tanner has been through in Alaska, thinks, “Okay, I’m gonna put him on this trail, and everything is gonna be fine.” And then it’s not fine. Something happens on this kind of gentle mountain trail that kind of pushes Tanner over the edge. And for quite some time before my book opens, he’s not very well. He’s quite sick.
And then his job at the wine bar is kind of his fresh start. So when he comes to work at the wine bar, he’s still quite fragile, but he’s making a real effort to turn his life around. And that’s how we first meet him. You know that he’s been through these things and that he’s still quite fragile, but he’s working really hard to be better. And that’s where we start off with Tanner. By the end of the book, obviously, we’ve developed that a lot more.
Jeff: And of course, in this, he’s meeting Jax as well.
Garrett: Yes. Jax is Cornish. So he’s from the UK. He’s an ex-surfer, and he has the most beautiful voice, which I’m really excited about because the books will also be coming in audio. And we just recruited a narrator that I’ve worked with before in a lot of my books, his name’s Dan Calley, and he does the most amazing Cornish accent. So I’m really looking forward to the audiobook of Jax.
Jeff: Fantastic. Yeah, I’m looking forward to actually the entire series. Let’s just be serious.
Garrett: Yeah. There’s so much talent packed into that author list. It’s a real honor to be among it. It’s such an amazing concept.
Jeff: And you were talking a little bit about the arc of the books, too, with Sarina’s really nice “Roommate” offering that, you know, first glimpse at Vino and Veritas, and then Annabeth’s book, which is also on the sweeter side, and then we pivot with your book.
Garrett: Yes. The original “True North” series was often like that. It had really gentle moments, but then it had moments that were really quite gritty. Because I think the first book in the series was there was a couple who met in a farm, and it was all very lovely. And then the second book, there was a heroin addict and all kinds of things going on. So it was important, I think, particularly for Sarina, to keep a variety of tones, I suppose, going throughout the series. So you don’t get the same experience with every book. It’s a very different experience with every book. And I think when “Heartscape” comes out, it’s the first real, kind of angsty moment in this series to kind of kick that off, and I was really, really excited to be the one to do that.
Jeff: When we talked to Sarina in Episode 281, talking about “Roommate” and the series, she mentioned that you and Annabeth Albert were two that she really spoke with a lot creating “Vino and Veritas” to spin off from “True North.” What was it like for you to be involved in some of those initial discussions?
Garrett: It was amazing because we were the first two to sign on with the project before she recruited the others. And Annabeth and I are actually good friends. We’ve been good friends for a long time. So it was the most natural thing in the world for us to sit down and talk about this and to have Sarina as kind of the guiding fearless leader, almost. It was such an inspiring conversation. And we had quite a few. And what stands out the most for me was the way the wine bar developed from initially being coined as a gay bar to being something a lot more inclusive. Because I think Sarina has it quite well at the end of “Roommate.” For Kieran and Roderick, it’s a gay bar because that’s how they identify, and that’s what it is to them. But then as you move through the series, and you’ve got bisexuals, and you’ve got women, and the bar is what you want it to be. It’s an inclusive space. There’s a place for everyone there. And it’s just…it’s like a dream bar, really. You know, it’s the bar we all want to go to.
Jeff: Right. I was disappointed, talking to her, that this wasn’t created from a real place, perhaps, that I could maybe go visit in reality. So I think the three of you should just open one.
Garrett: I would so do that. I would so do that. I mean, it’s a place that came from Sarina’s heart, and then Annabeth and I just helped her give it legs, I think. And it was just a real privilege to be involved. And I would love it to be a real place. That would be amazing.
Jeff: In terms of Tanner, I mean, as you mentioned, you’ve got this character that shows up before your book a little bit, and then goes on forever after, essentially, in the series as that human glue. How much do you get to influence what other people ultimately do with Tanner and Jax, for that matter, if Jax is showing up in other books as well?
Garrett: Yeah. Well, with Jax, I’m very lucky because I think there’s only a couple of other British authors on the list. I know that there’s Ana Ashley. I’m not sure who else is British. So because he’s British, everyone will run their dialog past me. With Tanner, I’ve had to leave people a little bit more to their own devices. But generally, people are coming to me with any scenes that involve him. So I do get a little bit of say in how he’s portrayed. But actually, these authors are all so good at what they do, and I’m not really worried about it.
Jeff: How was it for you as, like, the original creator to know that your character gets to live on? Because that doesn’t…Other than writing our own series, you know, as authors, where we get to just keep certain people going in the background, in this case, you’ve got other people who get to use him.
Garrett: Oh, it’s just amazing. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it? And actually, because I’m not the one writing, it’s exciting for me because I get to find out what he’s doing. And I haven’t had to sit down and write it myself. So it’s an experience for me as a reader. And I was always a big fan of the “True North” series when Sarina wrote them. So I’m in a very unique and very privileged position, in that I’ve got to contribute to it as a writer, and I also get to experience it as a reader as well. So it’s amazing.
Jeff: And a little bit of a creator, too, because of some of those initial discussions between you, Annabeth, and Sarina. You kind of have that triple hat going on there.
Garrett: Yes, yes. Yeah, yeah, it’s just a real privilege. I’ve just enjoyed it so much. And actually, I can’t remember when we first started talking. I think it was back in May in 2020, perhaps. So actually, although it feels like a long time, it actually came together quite quickly. And it’s just sometimes you agree to a project and it’s something that kind of hangs over you. And you spend a lot of time thinking, “God, how am I going to do this? How?” But with this project, it just seemed to just fall out of all of us, you know, and it was just…it came really naturally and really organically. And it’s something that we all really enjoyed. And it was just such a pleasure, the whole thing. I mean, I am relieved that it’s over, that I’ve written my book, and I’m done. But it was a process that I really, really enjoyed.
Jeff: And it’s amazing, too, when you think about the track of the project because, as you mentioned, you were talking about it in May. You know, for Sarina, it had to be a little bit before that just to spark the idea. And she mentioned that it had come to her kind of in the early days of the pandemic. But in roughly a year, it’s gone from seed of an idea to multiple-book series coming out.
Garrett: Yeah. I mean, there’s 18 books in the “V&V” series alone. I think in the broader world, there’s going to be 45 titles because you’ve got the new “Moo U Hockey” universe, and then you’ve got the “Busy Bean” series as well. So it’s absolutely enormous, really, when you think about it. It’s such a gargantuan task. I’ve got so much admiration for her and the team that she works with for putting it together,
Jeff: I don’t know with you, I wouldn’t want to figure out how to do all that.
Garrett: Oh, goodness. No, I don’t have the kind of…I’m just not organized enough. It’d be absolute carnage if I was at the helm of this. I can’t deny it. It would be horrific. It’s such a wonderful thing.
Jeff: I can’t wait. March isn’t gonna get here fast enough.
Garrett: I’m so excited. I’m so excited. I know I’m really proud of my book and the books that I’ve read in the series. I’m actually reading Eden Finley’s book this week as well. She’s called it “Headstrong.” It’s the same world but through different eyes every single time. And that’s just…it’s such a staggering thing. I love it.
Jeff: Let’s go back in time a little bit. You’ve been in this game for a number of years now. What got you started writing?
Garrett: I mean, I’ve always been a bit of a storyteller, but I started writing properly, way, way, way back in the “Twilight” years, when “Twilight” fanfiction was huge because I think like a lot of kind of secret writers. There were a lot of loose ends left untied in that series. So there was so much to play with. So I began writing “Twilight” fanfiction many years ago. And through that, I met a lot of people who were doing the same thing, who were at the same point in their lives as I was. And it’s kind of almost snowballed. And then the next thing you know, you’re in this whole other world, and you’ve left “Twilight” behind. And these characters that you’ve created are actually yours. I would say that was probably 10 years ago. I’ve been a published author since 2013. So it has been a long time.
Jeff: That’s a nice long career there. And it started in “Twilight.” Did you have particular characters that you started writing with in that universe that, like, kind of pulled you in to tell more story?
Garrett: I was a big of fan Jasper because he was this soldier character that had this huge backstory that wasn’t explored. And, you know, you leave fanfiction writers alone long enough with a backstory and they’ve created a whole new universe out of that. And actually, I can’t even remember what actually happens in the real books. Fanfiction writers are such unsung heroes. I think you go back and you read fanfiction now and some of the untapped skill and talent in fanfiction is unbelievable.
Jeff: Yeah. And so many in our genre came up through fanfiction, and we hear that all the time talking to authors.
Garrett: Yeah, but I think as well as a queer author and a writer of MM and things like that, there wasn’t a platform for us 10 years ago. So you had to write fanfiction if you wanted to be seen, I suppose, if you wanted to be heard. Because it just wasn’t around in mainstream romance the way it’s becoming now. It was a very different genre back then.
Jeff: What got you started writing MM?
Garrett: You know, that’s a very interesting question because I identify as queer, but, obviously, I’m female. So it wasn’t a biographical thing. For the characters I was writing at the time, it just…it worked. And I used to write MF as well, but MF was a genre that really spoke to me and I became really passionate about, and I can’t imagine really ever it not being my main genre that I write in. And it works out well for me now, and I’m married to a wonderful man who also identifies as bisexual, like me. So we have a very…it really suits where I am in my life right now.
Jeff: Who were some of your author influences in the MM space, especially as you were starting out? And even who do you look to now?
Garrett: Well, there weren’t many around back when I was starting out. But I would say now, I mean, Roan Parrish is just the most wonderful, lyrical, beautiful writer. I can just read her stuff and I just die of happiness. It’s amazing. I’m big, big, big fan of Avril Ashton. She’s just the most incredible writer. She’ll take something that’s perhaps seen as taboo, and she just makes it into this wonderful, rich world. If I pick up an Avril Ashton book, I can’t put it down. I’m also an enormous fan of Riley Hart. I think the way she writes is incredibly beautiful. I’d say those three. I mean, I’ always been a big Sarina Bowen fan, obviously. And I’m a massive Annabeth Albert fan. But I would say definitely Roan Parrish is probably my number one, and then we’ve got Avril and Riley as well. But I think we’re really blessed at the moment in our genre. And there’s such a huge diverse range of work out there. I think there really is something for everyone at the moment.
Jeff: Yeah, I would say that is very true. If you want to read it, you can probably find it very easily in our diverse landscape right now. And frankly, there’s too many good books to read.
Garrett: That’s why we don’t go out really.
Jeff: Right. Even if we were not even in pandemic times, it’s like, “I have a book to read right now.”
Jeff: In your writing, do you have favorite tropes that you’d like to work with?
Garrett: Oh, yes. Hurt comfort is a huge favorite of mine, as everyone would probably tell you as well. Like, a lot of my titles’ characters are disabled, or they have mental health problems, or something like that. Because it’s really important to me to show that people with these conditions, something like OCD, or multiple sclerosis, or something like that, that you can still have your happy ending. That romance doesn’t cure anything, you don’t have to have magic pill when you fall in love with someone that makes everything else better, but you can have both. You can have your happy ending as well as living with some of these complex conditions. So that’s a big thing of mine that I enjoy exploring. And actually, I’m looking at the notes that I made from the questions you sent me yesterday. And I’ve realized that both “Unforgotten” and “Heartscape” both feature this kind of housemates-to-lovers trope. So that’s obviously a favorite of mine as well.
Jeff: It seems to be in play quite a bit because, of course, you had “Roommate,” too, from Sarina. And it’s like there’s this moment of housemates books happening.
Garrett: Yeah, just lock them in a flat, and they’ll sort it out themselves. Yeah. I mean, we done forgotten they live together from the beginning to the end of the book. Whereas in “Heartscape,” Jax does actually move out, which contributes more to his character arc because the relationship that Jax has come from that he’s left behind is important for him to live independently. So although he lives with Tanner for a while at the beginning through circumstance rather than anything else, he does actually strike out on his own. But I do like the housemates-to-lovers thing because I think you don’t really know someone until you live with them, do you? So…
Jeff: True. You kind of get to see all the good, bad, and the ugly there. It’s a little bit forced proximity at times, but it’s not quite the full snowed in.
Garrett: Yeah, yeah. It’s not quite Stockholm syndrome. But…
Jeff: Right. As you’re exploring some of those things, like OCD or multiple sclerosis and things like that, that must just add to the writing time because there’s the research to do there and everything because you want to capture those characters.
Garrett: Yeah. I mean, there’s some conditions. Like, the very first book I wrote, one of the very first books that I was published was a book called “Only Love.” And there’s a character in that book, Josh, who has a disease called gastroparesis. And I had some direct experience of that. So that came a bit easier. And things like OCD, and addiction, and alcoholism are things that I’ve lived with either through myself or through family life and stuff like that. So that’s not too complicated. It’s when you do take a really complex disease, like, I wrote a book called “Dream” quite a few years ago, and the character has…in the UK, it’s called ME or chronic fatigue syndrome. And that was a very interesting book to write. Because even though I thought I knew what that onus was, by the time I finished writing the book, it was clear to me when I’d started, I had no idea.
So it can be really eye-opening sometimes, particularly if you reach out to readers and sensitivity readers and ask their experiences, what you find out really does add a different dynamic to what you originally started with. These days, actually, I find I use sensitivity readers with almost every book, especially if I’m writing someone from…I mean, I wrote a Russian character in my Christmas book, “Angels in the City.” And even with “Heartscape,” although I’ve felt I was quite well versed in PTSD, I still had a psychotherapist read it to make sure that the representation of the medical care Tanner has at the end was accurate. And actually, even to the point where I had to have some…I had Annabeth read it, and then Karen Stivali read it, and then Sarina read it as well. And then we got someone else in, completely new fresh eyes to make sure that no Britishisms had crept in to any American dialog because it’s been a long time since I’d last written a book set in America. So, yeah, you can never have too many eyes, I don’t think.
Jeff: I think that’s very true. And I would imagine that each set of eyes that looks at it, depending on the notes, also just makes the story in the environment just that much richer with that added…
Garrett: Absolutely, absolutely. It was quite funny in some places with the…the wine bar is in a place called, I think, Church Street, just Church Street marketplace in Burlington, which is Sarina’s stomping ground. And then you’ve got Karen Stivali, who’s also a New England native. So they both had different views of the same place. And then the editor that I used was Edie Danforth, and she was from around there as well. So she, again, would add more to certain situations because she’d seen it in a different way. And that was really interesting to watch the three of them describe the same place in very different ways.
Jeff: That’s awesome to have all three eyes kind of looking at your…
Garrett: Right. It was helpful because I’ve never been to Vermont in my life.
Jeff: Next time you’re in the States, maybe you should go check out where Vino and Veritas is supposed to be.
Garrett: Oh, yeah, for sure. For sure. It’s on my bucket list. Definitely.
Jeff: So we’ve talked about tropes a little bit. In terms of, like, subgenres, is there a subgenre within MM romance that you would want to try out but quite haven’t sunk your teeth into yet?
Garrett: No, I wrote one wolf shifter book a couple years ago called “Fated Hearts” because I had become completely engrossed in a series that was written by Annabelle Jacobs. And I loved it so much that I had to write my own book. And then I had to go back to her and say, “Can you help me because I think I’ve messed it up?” And, you know, she’s just the most amazing wolf shifter writer, so she helped me a lot. And that’s definitely a genre I would love to go back to, but it’s one of those things you’re like, “Am I good enough to play in that sandpit?” Because it’s such a diverse little subgenre with all the different ways you could write in there. And I was just, like, “Wow.” And I loved it so much I had to have a go, but I’m still to this day not sure if I pulled it off enough to go back.
Jeff: Interesting. So maybe more there from you in the future sometime.
Garrett: Yeah. Yeah, maybe, maybe. I just need to work myself up to it, I think.
Jeff: What do you think the trademarks of a Garrett Leigh book are?
Garrett: Oh, wow. Definitely…I mean, most books are about character development. But my writing is very character focused. I mean, the location is obviously important, and people’s occupations, and the plot and things that happen. But for me, I like to take a character from A to B at the end of the book and it be a real journey. That’s really important to me. And I like to show the highs, but I really like to show the lows as well and what makes a person who they are.
Jeff: Yeah, I could definitely see that in your work as well, those strong character arcs.
Garrett: Yeah, I like to write characters that you don’t always have to like them, but they have to be unforgettable, I think. Even if someone doesn’t like a book that I’ve written, I like it to be something they think about for a long time afterwards.
Jeff: What’s a book you’ve been thinking about a lot recently that you might recommend to our viewers kind of outside the “V&V” books that you’ve been reading along anyway?
Garrett: Oh, wow. I recently began to read a series that I really enjoyed. It was by a duo of authors. I think they’re called Krista and Becca Ritchie, and it’s their “Like Us” series. And I think it’s quite diverse. It’s got MF/MM in it. But the first two books that I’ve read in that series are both MM, and I really, really like the dialog in those books. It’s really sharp, it’s witty, it’s young. So it’s quite…it’s really, really good, and I’ve really, really enjoyed those books. And I think they are quite popular anyway. But I think because they’ve come from MF writing, I think they’re not quite as big in MM as they’re going to be when other people get their hands on these books because they’re really, really good.
Jeff: I will have to check those out because I have not heard of those. So thank you for adding to my TBR.
Garrett: No, I stumbled across them by accident. Because if I see a cover that I like, I will always have a look. And I started to read this book. And it just…it’s got really strong characters. The dialog just totally hooked me. And if I’m reading, especially with the younger characters, the dialog has to be really, really sharp. And they really, really smashed it with these books. So I really enjoyed them.
Jeff: Excellent. All right, going to Amazon as soon as we’re done here to find that. Besides what you’ve got coming out right here in February and March with the “Forgiven” series and then Heartscape,” what else can you tease us about coming up later this year?
Garrett: Well, during lockdown, I accidentally wrote a book called “Redemption,” which came out last year. And it’s about a young man who’s come out of prison. And then I put it aside to concentrate on “Heartscape” for Sarina. And the book came out, and then I decided, in a moment of madness, that I would write two other books to go with “Redemption.” They’re called “Deliverance” and “Salvation.” And each book will feature two new couples. And I’m hoping, if everything goes according to plan, that “Deliverance” will come out, possibly, in May. And then just before the summer kicks off, so probably at the beginning of July, hopefully, “Salvation” should come out, too. So that’s what I’ve got planned for the summer. And then in the winter, I do have a brand new series percolating that’s probably going to be set in a fictional town right at the bottom of Cornwall. But that’s all very much pie in the sky at the moment.
Jeff: I like how you said that you accidentally wrote a book.
Garrett: Well, it wasn’t on my list. It wasn’t on my schedule. And it just kind of just popped into my brain. And it was right at the beginning of lockdown when everyone was locked in their houses, the children were at home, so I was doing my best to ignore them and pretend they weren’t there. And luckily, because the weather was nice, my husband spent the entire of that lockdown in the garden, gardening, so I had all this time to myself. So I kind of locked myself in my room and wrote this book, “Redemption.” And it just…it was one of those books that just came really well and really fast. And it was just a really, really easy experience to write this book, and people seem to like it. And I always knew there was more to it, but because I got swept up in the “V&V” series, I’d kind of forgotten about it. So once I was done with that, I came back to it and then…yeah, so that’s what I’m working on right now.
Jeff: And do we get the usual wonderful Garrett Leigh Christmas story come December as well?
Garrett: I hope so. I hope so. I have started thinking about that because for me, because I’m an artist, my cover art tends to come before the book. So I’ve started looking for a bloke that speaks to me. So we shall see. Christmas book come easy to me because there’s certain beats you have to hit with a Christmas book that aren’t always natural Garrett Leigh books because Christmas books are so nice and so pleasant that I have to work really hard to be that nice for that long.
Jeff: And yet they always turn out so wonderfully.
Garrett: Well, you should know that I just about died writing each and every one. But I’m always really pleased with them at the end. I really like them.
Jeff: That’s good.
Garrett: I was really fond of Jonah and Sacha from this year. I enjoyed them a lot.
Jeff: And how can everyone keep up with you online so they can kind of keep track of all these things as they get ready to come out?
Garrett: Well, I’m generally everywhere because I have teenage children, so I have to be everywhere to make sure they’re not up to no good. So I am easily found on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and recently this year, because I have a 13-year-old, I’m also on TikTok. I don’t know how to use it, but I’m there. I’m there just pressing buttons and hoping for the best.
Jeff: So we’re not gonna have a dance video of you at some point on TikTok?
Garrett: Goodness me. Only if I wanted to give you all nightmares.
Jeff: Garrett, it has been so wonderful to talk to you. Thank you so much for coming to hang out with us.
Garrett: Thank you for having me. I’ve had a lovely time.