Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe talk about their Auden & O’Callaghan Mystery series, including the latest in the series A Friend in the Fire. Greg and Carroll talk about how their collaboration began, the inspirations for Sam and Rufus, and what their writing process looks like. We also find out about the romance convention crossover between the Snow & Winter and Borealis books, as well as what’s coming next for both of them. Of course, we also get book recs, and Carroll recommends a very unexpected title.
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. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Striking Sparks by Ari McKay on Amazon
- Episode 305 – Big Gay Fiction Book Club April 2021: “Striking Sparks” by Ari McKay on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Breaking Bonds by Ari McKay on Amazon
- Gregory Ashe & C.S. Poe Interview
- Gregory Ashe: website | Facebook | Twitter
- C.S. Poe: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- A Friend in the Dark by Gregory Ashe & C.S. Poe on Amazon | Kobo
- A Friend in the Fire by Gregory Ashe & C.S. Poe on Amazon | Kobo
- Auden & O’Callaghan Mystery seres by Gregory Ashe & C.S. Poe on Amazon | Kobo
- Hazard and Somerset series by Gregory Ashe on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Garrett Kiesel on Audible
- Indirection by Gregory Ashe on Amazon | Kobo
- Interlude by C.S. Poe on Amazon | Kobo
- Misdirection by Gregory Ashe on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until May 14, 2021)
- Beyond the Dark Veil by The Thanatos Archive on thanatos.net
- Wayward by Gregory Ashe on Amazon
- Secrets and Scrabble series by Josh Lanyon on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- 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
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Coming up in this episode, Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe are here to talk about their collaboration and their latest book, “A Friend in the Fire.”
Jeff: Welcome to episode 306 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff Adams, and with me as always is my co-host and husband and the guy I’m celebrating an anniversary with today, Will Knauss. Happy anniversary.
Will: Awww, thank you so much.
We happen to be recording this episode on Saturday, May 1st. And that just happens to be the anniversary of when I first asked Jeff out on a date.
Jeff: And it has been wonderful ever since.
Will: In other news, we hope that you’ve enjoyed our recent book club episode, featuring “Striking Sparks” by Ari McKay. Now, since it is the beginning of the month, we have a new book club offering to announce. I’m very pleased to say that the book that we’ll be reading for the month of May is “Breaking Bonds by Ari McKay. This happens to be the second book in the “Walker Boys” series.
And as I mentioned in our last book club episode, I really enjoyed these stories when they were first released a couple of years ago. I am so very happy that the authors have had the opportunity to re-release them. Meaning that I get to re-read them and share that joy with you. I really don’t think they got a fair shake the first go around. So I’m very glad to say that we are featuring this series as part of our book club selections.
So if you are part of our Patreon community, you can look forward to Jeff and I’s deep dive discussion of “Breaking Bonds” coming your way very, very soon.
It’s the story of a big deal, New York chef who finds himself vacationing at a struggling resort in the mountains of North Carolina. And he soon finds himself trying to help turn things around and falling in love in the process. We certainly enjoyed this sweet story and we think you will too. The book club episode featuring “Breaking Bonds is going to be heading into the main podcast feed on Thursday, May 27th.
Jeff: I am so glad you’ve had us read these. I didn’t get to read them the first time, but I could see why you fell so in love with them, because now I’m falling in love with the Walker Boys as well.
Now, are you ready to hear about hot underwear fever dreams and passive aggressive plotting?
Will: What if I said no?
Jeff: I would be very disappointed that you didn’t want to.
Will: Yes, yes. A thousand times, yes.
Jeff: We’ve got all that in more for you as I talk to Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe about their “Auden & O’Callaghan Mystery” series. This is the perfect time to be talking to them since the second book, “A Friend in the Fire,” just released last week. We find out how their collaboration began, how they actually work together, and what’s still to come for Sam and Rufus.
Gregory Ashe & C.S. Poe Interview
Jeff: Greg and Carroll, welcome back to the podcast. It is so wonderful to have you here, and together.
Greg: Thanks for having us.
Carroll: Thanks for having us.
Jeff: I’ve been wanting to talk to you both for a while now about Auden & O’Callaghan. And it’s the perfect opportunity because “A Friend in the Fire” just came out last week, which is Book 2. But before we get into all the Book 2 goodness, I actually wanna go back and talk about how you two came together and formed your writing partnership. How did that start?
Greg: Oh, can we tell the not embarrassing version?
Jeff: I’d much rather have the embarrassing version.
Greg: Yeah. No, I think that’s really the only version.
Carroll: That’s the only version, Greg.
Greg: Yeah, I know. Okay. So I went to…my first GRL was in Albuquerque. And in one of the panels, Carroll said something about wanting to co-write but haven’t found the right person.
Carroll: It was moderated by Will.
Greg: Oh, yeah, it was.
Carroll: Will was the moderator of this panel. And he had asked had any of us co-written before? And two of the authors on this three-author panel had actually co-written together. And then he asked me, he said, “Carroll, I don’t think you have, but have you?” And I was like, “No, no, I’ve just never had the right partner.” And then Greg made a scene.
Greg: I didn’t make a scene. I raised my hand in the audience…
Carroll: Very enthusiastically. He was, like, fifth grade in school.
Greg: Yes, that is correct.
Carroll: And I zeroed in, and I was like, “He is very excited, we need to discuss.”
Greg: Yeah, that was it. And then there was some chatting at the bar, right?
Greg: And we each got a feel the other wasn’t too crazy. And then…
Carroll: That we kinda had the same methods of working.
Carroll: Yeah. I think the most important part was, “Do you work linear?” Because some authors don’t.
Jeff: I’m always amazed by authors who don’t work linear in a mystery.
Greg: Oh, I know.
Carroll: I know. I know some who don’t, and they write amazing books. But, like, my brain can’t wrap around that. That was one of the things we’re, like, “Do you write, like, every scene as it happens, or do you skip around?” And he was like, “No, I write every scene as it happens.” So I’m like…
Greg: Yeah. People talk about, like, printing out their chapters and moving ’em around. Like, physically moving chapters around after they’ve written the book. That gives me, like, chills, and I can’t even…
Carroll: The fact that Greg even plots, like, makes me sort of, like, palpitate a little, which is like, “How do you plot this much?” And then he’s like, “Well, how do you not plot enough?” And I’m like, “We’ll find a healthy medium.”
Carroll: So he does plot planning and doesn’t tell me that he plotted. And it’s great. That’s what I need.
Greg: Yeah, passive-aggressive plotting, I think is what it’s called.
Jeff: That’s a term I haven’t heard before.
Greg: Yeah, I think we might be the only people in the history…
Carroll: …then I’ll be like, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen.” He’s like, “Well, what about…” I’m like, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” And then, I don’t know that, you know, this was like one of many ideas he had to placate me.
Greg: Well, listen, don’t argue with what works. That’s all I can say. I mean, are you a plotter, Jeff? I can’t remember if we’ve talked about that before.
Jeff: I am, kind of, a hybrid these days, but particularly when I’m doing mystery thriller elements, I do need that part mostly plotted. I mean, there are still some discovery that can go on in there, but I kinda need to know point A to point Z and the important things in the middle, like, you know, who did what, when that might happen, when it’s discovered, that kinda thing. I kind of need to know that. Subject to moving around, but at least I have to start with it.
Greg: Start with it. Yeah.
Jeff: You’re a pantser for mystery, Carroll?
Carroll: Oh, absolutely. I have no idea what I’m doing. I sit down, I’m like, “This is a good idea. Who did it? I don’t know. “Who are the red herrings? I don’t know. Who are the characters? I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.”
Greg: Yeah, Jeff, that face. Now, that face through the entire time we were writing. Now you understand passive-aggressive plotting.
Jeff: Oh my goodness.
Sam and Rufus had to come from somewhere. Did you come together to at least base the characters, or was that more passive-aggressive character development as well?.
Carroll: I think we just kind of both came up…Like, Greg sort of…Can I tell the hot underwear story?
Greg: Yeah, you have to. Yeah.
Carroll: Okay. So the hot underwear story…
Greg: Is exactly what it sounds like.
Carroll: It’s exactly what it sounds like. So I got, like…It was maybe, I don’t know, November, December, like after GRL, and I was, like, knee-deep reading “Hazard and Somerset,” and he was, like, kinda thinking about maybe writing something together, but we both felt like we don’t wanna push it. When we have an idea, we’ll have an idea. And I get a text message from him out of the blue, and he’s like, “Hey, so my hot underwear woke me up, and I had an idea.” And I was like, “Let’s talk about this for a minute before we even get to the idea because I need to understand what this text message even means.” And he’s like, “I wore long johns to bed, and it got hot, and it woke me up, and I woke up with an idea.” And he kinda…
Greg: It was, like, a fever dream. Like, a vision.
Carroll: Yeah, a fever dream. He had a fever dream about Sam and another character, but that character was, like, really vague and sort of just a great outline because he had more emphasis on who would eventually be Sam. And then, I liked the Sam, but I didn’t really like the other vague outline. So I was just kinda hemmed and hawed about that for a while, and I was like, “What if it’s just a complete opposite? I see this guy’s kinda grumpy, so I’m gonna make this other character, like, really snarky just to, like, get on his bad side all the time. How do we feel about that?”
Greg: Yeah. So that’s it. That sounds like passive-aggressive character development, doesn’t it?
Carroll: It really evolved from a fever dream.
Jeff: Is this how characters often come for you, like, because you’re wearing underwear that gets too hot at night?
Greg: I wish. Maybe I should go back to sleeping in long johns. Maybe I’d have more ideas. Oh, man. That was a first. That was a Poe and Ashe exclusive character development process. Patent pending.
Jeff: That’s amazing. Fever dream from long underwear.
Greg: Well, let’s not fixate on that part.
Jeff: How can you not, though? It’s such a thing to hold on to, right?
Greg: Okay, I do really like long underwear. I’m just gonna say that. And that’s all I have to say on that point. But it’s really comfy.
Carroll: Okay, I was living in Key West at the time, so I was definitely not wearing long johns. So I did not have a fever dream about Rufus. I just wanted to write about a redhead and redheads, just by default, are gonna be snarky little assholes. So I was like, “There we go.”
Jeff: Now, Sam and Rufus, and you touched on this a little bit because, you know, Sam’s grumpy, and Rufus is gonna be snarky and get under his skin, they’re very, very different characters, and yet in some ways, they’re very similar too because they have a lot of baggage, for one thing. They both have certain tics, I would say, that helped them get through the day. Their first meeting in “A Friend in the Dark,” I have to say, and the early interactions was ridiculously fun to read. It was like a very un-cute meet-cute. How did you build their first meeting into what that would become?
Greg: Carroll kinda touched on this. Because there’s only passive-aggressive plotting happening, it really did just, kind of, come out of the moment, right? I mean, we…
Carroll: We just kind of fed off each other’s dialogues.
Greg: We’d written a few scenes of each character independently to try to get a feel for ’em. So we, kind of, started to get, you know, a sense of how they might interact. But yeah, it was really, kind of, one of those things that was just kind of…
Carroll: We were vibing.
Greg: Yeah. Yeah, it was. It really just flowed when it happened. Yeah.
Carroll: It’s great because Greg’s really good at writing, like, really grumpy characters, as we know from Emery Hazard. So I was like, well, you know, how would my characters, which I think more often than not, are really dry, sarcastic characters, deal with meeting a character like Hazard? And that’s sort of, like, how I approached Rufus with Sam. It was, like, a combination of Sebastian Snow meets Emery Hazard.
Greg: Which they kind of did at one time.
Greg: Almost. Yeah. That’s another story, though.
Jeff: You know I’m gonna have to pull on that thread later, just to know what that means.
Greg: Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s just, like, a little fun…But we can talk about that, for sure. Yeah, I think that scene, like, really, most of the…especially “A Friend in the Dark,” it just flowed, and it just worked, I thought. I mean, was that your experience, Carroll?
Carroll: Yeah. No, that book just was, like, we started it, and we were like, “Oh, we’re done now?”
Greg: Yeah, it worked. That one went really smoothly.
Jeff: Interesting that it went so quickly, for as intricate as it is, too.
Greg: And I think that was one of those things where…I think more in that first book, didn’t we do kind of a lot of stepping back and, kind of, tweaking as we went, Carroll? In terms of, like, deciding what we wanted to have happen and…
Carroll: Yeah, the second book required a lot more sort of revisions, but that was more revisions to a really, sort of, more next step complexity in the plot, and I feel like the first book was more revisions based on how we wanted to mold the characters.
Carroll: The first book, I think, was a little bit more heavy on how much we wanted to emphasize who they were, how they interacted, the world around them, and then the second book was…we had way more revisions, but it wasn’t Sam and Rufus so much as the mystery, especially since I wrote chapter 1, had no idea what I was doing.
Greg: What is your process? I mean, Jeff, do you come back to things and do a big, heavy rewrite, or what is your revision…is that a big part of the process for you?
Jeff: It depends on how well the first draft turned out.
Greg: Well, yeah, yeah. Okay. That’s fair.
Carroll: You draft though, Jeff?
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Jeff: Yeah, I do everything I can to just throw it on the page and have the story. Hopefully…
Carroll: So I don’t do that either. So I also can’t, like, barely wrap my head around drafting.
Jeff: Oh, interesting. We’re learning a lot about Carroll here.
Carroll: She’s a mess from beginning to end.
Jeff: I have to get it all out of the page and then start to see, does it hold together, did everything make sense from the plot that I had or any turns that I took? I mean…
Carroll: That one little idea you had, did you remember to put it down, and…
Jeff: So you don’t draft, Carroll. How does that work?
Carroll: I stare at the wall a lot, and I write the sentence in my head, and then I write the next few sentences in my head and decide whether or not that sentence made sense, and if it makes sense for, like, a paragraph, then I put it down, or it made sense when I did it, and three days later, I realize it’s terrible, and I delete the whole thing, start over again, which is my current predicament.
Jeff: Interesting. So it sounds, if I’m thinking about this right, you do a lot of the drafting in your head?
Carroll: In my head. Yeah.
Jeff: And so it’s a second draft that comes on the page.
Carroll: Yeah. there is a draft, it’s just all mental.
Jeff: I couldn’t keep mine in my head that long. I’d end up going somewhere else.
Carroll: I think my fingers are just lazy and they, like, don’t want to commit to typing, unless it’s, like, gonna be the end result. And they’re like, “Nah, I wasn’t feeling it.
Jeff: The thing I find curious about the series as I was getting into “A Friend in the Dark” was, you’ve got two characters who’ve come together here. They are not investigators, they’re not police, they’re not, you know, anything associated with that, but they’ve become the primary ones working to solve the mystery of why their friend was murdered, even though the police say it was suicide. That had to be fascinating, I would think, to build because you’ve both built mysteries with investigators and police, and you’re stripping away all of the stuff that those characters would have to handle the problem, and throwing it into, essentially, laypeople. Was that as fun as it sounds, or did that make it more difficult?
Carroll: Both. It was difficult in a fun, challenging way, for me anyway.
Greg: I mean, didn’t we kinda talk about that, Carroll, when we were trying to think about Rufus as a police informant? Like, that was one of the things that was an advantage to putting him in that role was it kind of gave us something…
Carroll: The original idea was, like, he was gonna be auxiliary police, which is not, like, a full-fledged police officer in the city, but they’re sort of, like, supplemental aide almost. But then, I didn’t really wanna do that. I can’t even remember who had the idea of confidential informant, but it was, like, just enough of a connection to law enforcement, that the tools are there if you can beg for it in the right way, but just removed enough that it left us with two, sort of, unique amateur sleuths.
Greg: Yeah. And the amateurs aren’t…I mean, kind of as you were saying Jeff, it is tricky to come up with the reason why not only they would, but why they should investigate because I think for it to be satisfying, you have to answer, at least in the first…If it’s a series you have to answer those in the first one pretty clearly because otherwise, I as a reader would say, “Well, why aren’t the police kinda handling this?”
Carroll: Yeah. Why do I care?
Greg: Yeah. And not to get too deep into the plot of “Dark,” but I think that influenced some of our plot decisions as well. You know, considering who had died, and why the death was not being investigated, like, thoroughly or appropriately or something like that.
Carroll: Yeah. And how that his connection was emotionally relatable to both of those characters, and then to make everyone in this chain of events care from beginning to end.
Jeff: We’ve talked a little bit about your writing process. How was day-to-day writing on this project for both of you in terms of who was responsible for what and then how did it end up passing between the both of you?
Carroll: So we wrote it together, literally, at the same time. It wasn’t, like, one chapter back and forth. So, we got on Google Docs for two hours a day, whenever Greg’s schedule had, like, an opening because he works more than me. So I was a bit more like…
Greg: Didn’t we do most of it over winter break? I feel like we did most of that first one over winter break.
Carroll: We did most of it over break. Yeah.
Carroll: And he always wrote Sam, and I always wrote Rufus, we shared all the other characters, and we literally, like, if I wrote a sentence, then he wrote a sentence, then I wrote a paragraph, and he might write a paragraph. The only thing that we made sure we switched on every other chapter is whose POV it was. But otherwise, we literally were, like, riffing off each other.
Greg: And I know you’ve co-written at least one, Jeff, or more. Is it just…?
Jeff: Just the one with Will. Yeah.
Greg: What was that experience? Was that similar? What did you guys do?
Jeff: We plotted together…
Greg: Oh, no. That’s already wrong. No, I’m just kidding.
Jeff: …and then I went away, and first drafted the whole thing.
Greg: Oh wow. Okay.
Jeff: I mean, occasionally, I’d be like, “I’m about to write this,” you know, coming a tangent off of what we’d already planned, but then he went through into the second draft, and then he revised, rewrote, tweaked as he’d see fit, and then we came back together in the next version to make sure it all sounded, you know, like one person perhaps wrote it, you know, and make sure everything was consistent.
Greg: We talked about that because I do think a lot of co-authors do it the way you just described so that it does sound consistent. Because sometimes I think you do get those co-written pieces where it’s just, you know, really up and down and you can tell things were cobbled together. I hope that wasn’t what Dark read, like, to people. But at least by keeping it chapter to chapter and having both of us involved through the whole process, I hope we avoided it.
Carroll: It made a whole new author.
Greg: Yeah, yeah, I think somewhat it did. Yeah.
Jeff: I’ve talked to authors who actually do what you do, sitting in the doc at the same time, and doing it together. I’ve talked to others who, they each have their POV character, and they’ll write those POV chapters, you know, first draft, and then they’ll come together to, like, make them…you know, become that cohesiveness in a future draft. The strangest one that I’ve encountered is where the first person would come in and write, write, write, write, write until they were “done writing for the day,” whatever that meant, and it could be mid-chapter, and then give the doc over, and then the next person would pick up, read what had happened, and go, “Okay, here I go,” and just keep going.
Greg: Well, I think that’s how Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote “Good Omens.” But they were mailing a disc. They were couriering a disk, floppy disk, back and forth because it was…
Carroll: Back in the day.
Greg: It was back in the day. Because they were on totally different sleep schedules because I guess one of ’em, like, got up real late. Like, one of ’em would get up in the afternoon, and be like, “What did you write this morning?” So apparently, that works for some people.
Carroll: It works, I guess. Luckily, we’re on the same schedule, so…
Greg: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. Yeah.
Jeff: And it’ll be interesting if either of you co-write again with somebody else. How that might change what you’ve done.
Carroll: Good Lord, I don’t know if I could. I don’t know. It’s so much pressure. Like, I’ve never written a single line of dialogue for Sam.
Greg: Yeah, that’s true.
Carroll: I don’t think I want to. I’m not in his head enough to…I can, like, anticipate reactions or actions, but dialogue, I’ve never written for him.
Greg: Yeah, I think we did stay pretty clear. We tried not to step on each other’s toes with that.
Jeff: Did you ever throw each other for a complete loop? Like, “I can’t believe you just put that on the page. What am I supposed to do with that?”
Greg: Yes. I can’t think of any examples, but yes.
Carroll: In the chat logs sometimes, we’re like…
Greg: Yeah. So, yeah, like Carroll was saying, like, on the side, there’s a chatbox that you can have running it. Unfortunately, they don’t let you save that because…
Carroll: No, because there are some good comments.
Greg: Yeah. But, yes, I know that happened. I know that throughout, there were things that the other one wouldn’t expect that felt right in the moment, so one of us would write it. I just am having a hard time thinking of an example.
Carroll: I think most of it was just, like, probably one-line dialogues. We were, like, “Oh, that was good. That was smart.”
Greg: Yeah, yeah. I think we usually knew the general way the story was moving. Maybe the specifics might have been occasionally surprising, but it wasn’t ever, like, you know, someone got killed that I didn’t know was about to get killed or something like that. That might have been a little harder to adjust to.
Carroll: That was expected.
Jeff: You talk about the snark and then the very different behavior of Sam. And Garrett Kiesel really did an amazing job, like, nailing their personalities for the audiobook too because it’s very stark when you hear them talk.
Greg: It was hard to find…We listened to a lot of auditions. Well, Carroll listened to a lot of auditions and spared me from a lot, and I listened to some.
Carroll: Like, probably 50-plus in what we went through, and then I kinda narrowed it down to like 20 and was like, “These are the ones I…” You know, having to get rid of the ones that were, like, robotic voices that someone had put through a software program where I’m like, “Well, you’re not even a real person.” And, you know, having to really listen. So a lot of them got Rufus really well, but we were really concerned about Sam’s character. And there were just so few that got how his deliveries work. And we had narrowed it down to, like, 20 and then the top 5. And Garrett kept coming out in, like, the top two, and we were like, “Fine, let’s go with Garret. This guy clearly knows how to do Sam, and if I have any note about Rufus, I know that he can tweak it because he sounds great.” But it was Sam that was the hard one to nail, and Garret totally got it.
Jeff: And I can understand that because Sam is so nuanced between the anxiety and things that he carries, but he’s also got this tremendous heart lurking in there, too.
Greg: Yeah, yeah. And I don’t know why, but apparently people think a deep voice means, like, a really deep voice. Wasn’t that a problem that we kept running into with that? It was like…
Carroll: Yeah, some guys were just like…
Greg: Some of ’em were caricatures. I was like, how do they…you know that normal people don’t…I don’t know. But, yeah, I know…
Carroll: The bass, you’re working it up a little bit. Come on, too much testosterone.
Greg: Yeah, because we wanted that nuance. We didn’t want just the…well, for either character, right? You don’t want them to be just these one-note characters. But yeah, with Sam, that was definitely one thing I wanted was what you described, that nuance.
Jeff: So tell us a little bit about “A Friend in the Fire.” What has brought Sam and Rufus back together a second time?
Greg: Ooh. Carroll?
Greg: No, you can say.
Greg: So because we’ve been writing and, kind of, been responsible for these different characters, this book, in some ways, was a little bit more Carroll’s baby in some ways because it’s more about Rufus’ character arc. Is that right? Is that fair, Carroll?
Carroll: Yeah, yeah. I mean, we kind of planned it that way. That the first and fourth were, like, bookends, and the two in the middle are character arcs, individual arcs, and this one is Rufus. So it’s a little more heavy on him.
Greg: So it starts off with, kinda, like, the first book, Rufus getting a message summoning him to a meeting.
Jeff: Poor Rufus.
Greg: And of course, things go bad, as you can guess. And so things go bad, he ends up calling Sam for help. And Sam is in a flyspeck town in Missouri called Wahredua that he has been hitchhiking through. And so he takes the call and decides to head back to Manhattan and see if he can help Rufus. And they kinda get…It is a serial killer from the past story. I mean, do you wanna say more than that, Carroll? I don’t wanna…
Carroll: Probably not much more than that.
Greg: Yeah. So, yeah, they’re trying to figure out who came after Rufus, but then they find these connections to the past and a serial killer who kind of went dormant and might be active again. So that’s kind of the…
Carroll: And a whole lot of Rufus baggage.
Greg: Oh yeah, yeah.
Jeff: I can only imagine.
Carroll: That pandora box just opens, and it all comes out.
Jeff: So if Sam’s been hanging out in Wahredua, does he happen to run into anybody we know?
Greg: Yeah. Yeah, there’s three…
Carroll: There might have been a little sightseeing.
Greg: Yeah. Like, I asked Carroll if it was okay before I did that because I was like, “I don’t wanna annoy people…”
Carroll: And I said, “Oh, of course it’s okay.”
Greg: So it’s really just one scene. He’s in a bar, he’s in the Pretty Pretty, right, in the gay club. The one gay club in this whole town. And he sees characters who I think you can then refer are Hazard and Somers, you know, just out having a good time. And then he also runs it into one of Hazard’s exes, Nico, and this bartender. And, you know, Sam because he’s Sam, does need to hook up before he leaves town. So, you know, it’s just a fun little cameo to say, like, you know…
Carroll: This giant universe is very interconnected. And I snuck a little bit of my stuff in there too, which is a little more subtle, but…
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Greg: We talked about some of Carroll’s characters making an appearance in Book 3. So hopefully, you know, even if it’s just one unnamed cameo, like…But we’ll see. Yeah, it’s fun. I enjoy doing that. I don’t know if anyone else does, but…Have you done anything like that?
Carol: I love Easter eggs.
Greg: Carroll, like, didn’t you tell me you’ve done it even with other authors?
Carroll: Yeah, yup.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s some of the real fun stuff when you could start crossing with other authors and just, like, learning a character over here and putting a character over there and them coming back in.
Carroll: Just a vague mention in dialogue, and readers are like, “Wait.”
Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s fun. And the fact that Sam hooks up with Nico, I think is totally appropriate.
Greg: Oh, yeah. Well, at that point in his life, Sam will hook up with just about anything that moves and there’s certainly some…yeah.
Carroll: Yeah. Rufus, you know, he’s got some passive-aggressive remarks about that.
Jeff: Oh, I’m sure because there were passive-aggressive remarks and looks in Book 1 too.
Jeff: And some not so passive-aggressive ones as well.
Carroll: There were some of those, like, “So, you been seeing anyone?” comment because he knows. Well, duh.
Greg: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so we’ll see how…like Carroll was kind of suggesting, Book 3 will be a little bit more about Sam. And so we’ll get a dive into, and maybe even leave Manhattan, we’ve talked about possibly. Probably not for the whole book, but maybe they’ll take a little jaunt somewhere, and see how Rufus handles…
Carroll: Get Rufus out of town, really stretch him out.
Greg: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: Nice. And then there’s a Book 4 too, it sounded like as well.
Greg: Yeah, that’s the plan. Yeah. And that’ll be, kind of, back to the focus equally shared in that fourth one.
Jeff: What was it like for both of you to come back to this series and the writing partnership after working on your own individual projects between books?
Greg: We didn’t have that…Because we actually wrote “Fire” quite a while ago…we actually wrote it almost a year ago now. Well, nine months ago.
Carroll: We wrote it quite a while ago. Yeah.
Greg: Yeah. So there were probably six months between writing “Dark” and writing “Fire,” which isn’t terrible. But…
Carroll: It’s a time, but not that much.
Greg: When we go back to the next one, that’ll have been a much longer chunk, you know. I mean, the thing that is oddly reassuring, kind of eases my crippling anxiety, is having someone else there because if you’re just…you know, if I say, “I am totally stuck,” you know, Carroll will help me come up with something.
Carroll: And vice versa.
Greg: There’s no one to help me do that most of the time, so it’s nice. Like, there is, you know, probably half the stress that I would feel about a normal project because I just can’t get on there and…
Carroll: Yeah, there’s not the fear of telling one another, like, “I honestly…I don’t know what to do. Do you have any thoughts about this scene or about this character or about this arc,” or whatever we’re doing? And I think that’s also definitely an important part of the partnership is that as also an anxious, crippled author, working alone, that I can tell him, “I have no idea. Please help me.” And he will not, you know, make me feel bad about it.
Greg: No, because most of the time it’s me saying that, “I can’t.”
Jeff: This is, as we mentioned, first time co-writing for you both. Was there trepidation about moving down that path at all?
Greg: No, I didn’t. I didn’t have any of that or feel that. And part of it is just because I think until you’ve done a project…and you can probably speak to this as well, Jeff. But until you’ve done a project like that, it’s hard to know what could go wrong. There are things, but…
Carroll: Anything is possible, but…
Greg: Anything is possible, right.
Carroll: I think it also helps that, like, we’re friends “off the page,” so to speak.
Greg: Yeah. And we like each other’s books. I mean, that was a big deal. Like, I wouldn’t have done my fifth grader needs to go to the bathroom routine if I hadn’t liked Carroll’s writing.
Carroll: Yeah. And I wouldn’t send him daily text messages about all the ways that he emotionally is hurting me if I didn’t like him. I feel like most of my text message…like, Verizon would be like, “Wow, you send a lot of texts to him.” And it’s just a whole bunch of, like, crying emojis.
Jeff: Oh my goodness.
Greg: My God.
Jeff: What do you both like most about co-writing?
Greg: Definitely the having someone else with you there.
Carroll: The riffing off dialogue.
Greg: Yeah, yeah.
Carroll: Just the back and forth I really enjoy because I love dialogue, heavy stuff. And sometimes Greg will just pull a one-liner out of nowhere that’s just like, it’s so almost monotone and serious in the way that Sam or another character might deliver it, but it’s so ridiculous. Like, it’s delivered with such sincerity but it’s, like, a laugh-out-loud line, where I’m like, “Oh, man, I can’t wait to, like, just type something back to this. It’s so good.” He’s really great with dialogue. So I just love any scene where characters really get going back and forth and it’s just, like, a little catfight.
Greg: Yeah, and I was gonna say something similar. I think in the sense that there’s…Well, the line that I said in the middle of writing the first one where Carroll, I think told me was the nerdiest thing she’d ever heard maybe. Is that what you told me? I said something like…
Carroll: Not the nerdiest, yes, but, like, I understood it.
Greg: I do believe the word nerdiest was in your response.
Carroll: One of the nerdiest.
Greg: I said something like, “It’s like playing Dungeons & Dragons.” Isn’t that what I said? Something like that?
Carroll: You said something akin to, “This is like professional D&D playing.” And I was like, “Oh, I understand that, but I also have played tabletop RPGs.” But also, it was a very nerdy thing to say.
Greg: Yeah, it was extremely nerdy. You know, there is that fun, like, the pleasure of creating a shared world, right, that I think a lot of people can connect with. And then, you know, it’s great as a writer to work with someone whose work you respect and see how they do things, and how it’s different from how I do things. And that’s a great learning opportunity. So, you know, there’s a lot of craft and then just professionalization things that I have learned from Carroll from working with this. And so that’s been like a huge privilege.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Carroll: Yeah, and keeping up with Greg, honestly, like…
Jeff: I can’t even imagine.
Carroll: I’ve told him this before, and I don’t know if he thought it was a joke or something. But in all sincerity, though, like, sometimes when I’m having a really rough day with writing and I just feel like I’m never going to get this book done because I’m, like, dragging out 200 words in four hours, and I’m just like, “You know what? You wrote with Greg, and he’s a powerhouse. You can do this. He’s gonna text you and ask you how writing went today, what are you gonna say? You wrote nothing?” And it’s almost, like, an agressive way to push myself forward. So I really did enjoy…even though he is just unstoppable. I don’t actually think he sleeps, but it’s been really fun keeping up with him because it’s sort of like when I feel like I’m falling into a rut, I’m like, “No, because I gotta do this with Greg.” And then I get, like, almost a second wind to keep going.
Greg: Well, thank you.
Jeff: I’ve often wondered if he has a clone.
Carroll: I just don’t actually think he sleeps.
Jeff: That would be a way to solve it also.
Greg: I slept this week. I slept so many nights this week.
Carroll: I slept this week. It was the best week of my year.
Greg: Yeah, it was great. I slept so much.
Jeff: People should know, as you saying that, that we’re recording this as your finishing spring break week.
Greg: That’s right. Yes, that’s right.
Jeff: You have been on vacation this week.
Greg: That’s right.
Carroll: After this, it’s back to the no sleep.
Greg: Yeah. And I will say, I know everyone’s process is different. And that is one of the things that I think is different for Carroll and me, and that’s one of the things that has been a good learning opportunity for me. So, anyway, that’s all I wanted to say about that. That is one of the huge perks of working with somebody else, especially someone who you admire.
Carroll: It’s a really nice way of saying…Sometimes he has asked me in the chat thread, “Are you thinking or did you fall asleep, or did you…”
Greg: I did think of that…
Carroll: Sometimes the cursor is just blinking and I’m not doing anything.
Greg: When she was telling you about composing in her head and, like, the draft in her head, I was like, “Yeah.” And then sometimes I’ll say, “Am I supposed to be doing something?” Because sometimes I’m worried that I’m the one who’s not doing something.
Carroll: And I’m like, “No, no, you’re fine. I’m thinking.”
Greg: Yeah. So, yeah, I know what that looks like. Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: Is there anything that you…I can’t even imagine you’ve got anything for this, but maybe, anything about co-writing that you’d like the least, or was like, “Ugh, I wish I could fix this thing?” Because it sounds like this was a match made in heaven, really, for the most part.
Carroll: I think maybe editing is more tedious just because we’re so interwoven. It’s not like every odd chapter is Greg, and I don’t have to look at it because it’s all his work. It’s all us, all the time. So sometimes I go to tweak because I tweak things until the zero hour. I’m like, “If I can tell this sentence in five words instead of seven, I’ll get rid of two. And then I have to remember, who the frick wrote this character? Because sometimes it’s hard to tell. We, like, blended a lot of the side characters really well, and I’m like, “Did I do it, did he do it?” So I just won’t touch ’em because I don’t know, and I don’t wanna step on toes either. So I just know I can tweak Rufus, that’s fine. So sometimes the editing part just because I can’t remember who did what.
Greg: Like, we both had to be willing to be flexible about how we do things. And, you know, it’s not just one person’s story. I don’t think that’s ever become a point of contention, but it is something that I think we both had to be aware of and just say, you know, like, “What do you wanna do?”
Carroll: Yeah, and how we can make it better the next time.
Greg: And I don’t know, like, one of the things that’s lovely about writing a book if you’re a control freak is, like, you’re gonna do everything, right? Like, it’s your piece of art that you made from beginning to end. And so that is one of the things that you give up. Now, kinda as I said, I think there’s a lot of trade-offs. And we’ve both been pretty flexible, I think.
Jeff: So, I’m gonna pull on this thing that you mentioned earlier because I have to know about it.
Greg: Oh, yeah.
Jeff: How did Hazard and Sebastian Snow get mixed up together?
Greg: Okay, so I messed up because I was so excited when we brought it up. I meant North and Shaw, and Sebastian and Calvin because I wrote this…My book that came out in March is called “Indirection,” and it’s about a GRL-type convention that…
Carroll: Oh, it’s so good.
Greg: …North and Shaw go to, and they have to solve a murder at this gay romance literature convention.
Jeff: Oh my God.
Carroll: It’s so good. It’s meta and…
Greg: And so one of the fun things that…
Carroll: …over the top and amazing.
Greg: Well, it’s over the top, that’s for sure. I don’t know about the rest of it, but it’s definitely over the top.
Carroll: It’s amazing.
Greg: So Sabastian, who is a kind of secret lover of romance literature in Carroll’s books, does make a quick cameo. It’s after the murder has occurred. And when Calvin hears that someone has died, he makes Sebastian leave. He won’t let him stay for the convention. He says they have to go look at some antique shops. Isn’t that what he…something like that?
Carroll: Yeah, yeah. “Let’s go look at antique shops or museums or something.” And I did write a companion piece to that in “Interlude,” which is a Snow & Winter short story collection. There’s a short story in it called “St Louis, What Now?” And it’s about Sebastian learning about this convention called Queer Expectations and, like, having to work up the nerve to admit to Calvin, “Yes, I like romance books, and I wanna go to America’s breadbasket to go to this event.” And it’s this whole 20-page short story working up to this, and then if you read Greg’s book, you see they get there and they don’t get to stay because there’s been a murder.
Greg: Yeah. Calvin’s not gonna let him get involved in another…But maybe another time, I think…
Jeff: Yeah, so many things have happened over the years at GRL. So far, never a murder, though.
Carroll: But it’s believable, right? When I was reading an early copy of it, like, I highlighted like, “This is believable, this is believable, this is believable.” I had half of the book highlighted. I’m like, “No, Greg, keep all of this because I literally feel like I’ve experienced most of it firsthand.”
Greg: It is a love song, too.
Carroll: It’s not a sober love song.
Greg: It is not a sober love song.
Jeff: I gotta go pick up that book. I’m so behind at all of your books, Greg, recently.
Greg: Oh gosh, no.
Jeff: But that one sounds like a hoot.
Carroll: I’ve spent the last, like, three months catching up.
Greg: It was fun to write. It was fun. That’s all I can say. It’s silly, but that’s a series where I can do that.
Jeff: Yeah. And I can just imagine them in a GRL setting, too. Although, it would be very interesting to put Hazard and Somerset in a GRL setting too because Emery would not know what to do with that.
Greg: Yeah, that would really be…
Carroll: Hazard would set it on fire in about 8.7 seconds.
Greg: I was gonna say, there would be a murder again, but I don’t think Hazard would be solving it.
Jeff: So what’s coming up next for both of you outside of Auden & O’Callaghan?
Carroll: Well, that’s a good question. At the time of this recording, “Interlude” is out on April 8th, which is a novella-length collection of short stories for Snow & Winter. And I’m working on the first book in a new mystery series that is the Memento Mori series. Book 1 is called “Madison Square Murders,” and it incorporates one of my favorite subjects ever, and that is Victorian-American mourning rituals, except it’s gonna be contemporary murders in New York City. So…
Greg: Sounds awesome.
Carroll: …we’re waiting for the twists on that one.
Greg: Yeah, yeah, I’m excited for that because Carroll has sent me some, like, screenshots of her research books and, like, books bound in human skin…
Carroll: Oh, the stuff that I have.
Greg: All sorts of creepy, crazy…Yeah, I mean, it’s awesome. It’s gonna be great. And so about middle of May, May 14th, the next Borealis book will be coming out. It’s called “Misdirection.” And that is the follow-up to the one we were just kinda talking about, where they were at a romance convention. This is the next book. They are kind of hired, kind of threatened into helping get a Senator’s son tested regularly for drugs, but when they go to pick him up, he is missing and there’s signs of a break-in and struggle, so then they have to figure out where he went and, well, what happened to him maybe. Anyway. So it’s fun. Those are my Borealis books, and that’s May 14th.
Carroll: Because North and Shaw can never get a job that they want.
Jeff: It would seem that way, right? So, we love to get book recommendations on this show. So what’s a book that each of you have read recently that you would recommend to our audience?
Carroll: Okay, so I can give two. One of the research books that I recently bought is…Gosh, I can’t remember the title now, but it’s organized by Thenatus Archives, and it is a collection of Victorian post-mortem photography, which if you’re not aware is in the Victorian era. A lot of times, the only time people could afford to have a photograph of their family is if a member had passed away because it was still an expensive process up through the Civil War. So, there was such a high mortality rate, especially among children, that sometimes the only photograph you had of your babies or your toddlers was, unfortunately, when they passed. So it’s a huge collection of this photography and all of the history behind it, which was, like, absolutely worth every penny. I mean, Thanatos Archives is this amazing group of, like, sort of, I wanna call ’em armchair historians, but it’s just like this sort of ragtag group of people who are just so smart and so dedicated to this exact subject matter. And it’s amazing. It’s a really high-quality book. I picked it up from the museum in Philadelphia that is a physician’s and medical museum. It’s awesome.
And the other book, that’s fiction, is “Wayward,” which is in the Union of Swords, second arc for Hazard and Somerset. This is it. I got “Wayward,” “The Keeper of Bees,” and then the short story collection. I’m officially all caught up on Greg’s backlist, but I’m at the cool, you know, 50% part of this book, where I just sort of wanna emotionally die because I can’t handle it. So I’m, like, having to fight tooth and nail for every page. Like, I just can’t, but I will, but I just can’t. So, that’s what I’m reading.
Jeff: Yeah. I’m so jealous that you’re caught up on the backlist.
Greg: Oh my God.
Carroll: I’ve spent all of January, February, March just, like, deep diving. Like, literally, every week, he was getting a text message with, “Okay, now I read this book. Screw you. I mean, I loved it, but screw you. You’re going to hell.” And then, “This book was amazing, beautiful, perfect. Screw you.” Then I move to the next book.
Greg: Well, thank you. That is very nice.
Carroll: No, I’ve got two more screw yous in me, and then I will stop.
Greg: Oh my goodness. Well, thank you. Let’s see. So, Jeff, have you read Josh Lanyon’s cozies? The Scrabble and…
Carroll: Secrets and Scabble.
Greg: Secrets and Scrabble. Have you read those?
Jeff: I have not.
Jeff: Those books sit on my TBR, like so many others.
Greg: I ask because the third one just came out, and I just read ’em. And I want to recommend them because they are so fun, and just really comforting, you know, low angst, and you can read them in like two hours, you know what I mean? They’re real readable, and short, and just like this incredible treat and way to spend some time. I was telling Carroll how much fun they were the other day. So, yeah. I don’t know. I don’t have a cool Victorian death book or anything to recommend.
Jeff: I think you’re the first one to recommend a Victorian death book.
Carroll: I like firsts.
Greg: It’s gonna pay off. I’ve heard a lot about this “Madison Square Murders,” and I’m excited for it. It’s gonna be great. But we don’t have a pre-order out for that yet, right? You don’t have a preorder for…?
Carroll: I have to get past chapter 1 first before they have to do a preorder.
Carroll: I’ve written it like five times, Jeff, okay. I just keep throwing it away.
Jeff: Wow. Okay.
Greg: But there’s no drafts. Don’t worry.
Carroll: No drafts. No drafts.
Jeff: Oh my goodness. How can people keep up with you both online so they know when all this new stuff is coming out?
Greg: I’m not very good at that.
Carroll: I mean, website, and then there’s links to Facebook, Twitter, email, Instagram, all that good stuff. Greg has that too, but…
Greg: I do.
Carroll: …he checks the best.
Greg: Probably Facebook. I mean, that’s probably the best. I do have a website that I keep updated with my releases and…but, yeah.
Jeff: And you’ve got your newsletter. I get the newsletter, and it’s like, “Oh, another book is out. Damn, I’m further behind.”
Greg: I do give away a free short story with every new release. Yeah, that’s a place you can keep track with what’s going on.
Carroll: Good incentives.
Greg: Yeah. They’re just, like, you know, just fun little things.
Jeff: Fantastic. Well, Greg and Carroll, this has been so much fun. I can’t wait to get into “A Friend in the Fire” to see what happens with Sam and Rufus next. And to know that there’s two more books in this series beyond that is very exciting. So yeah, thank you for telling us all about it and your process.
Greg: Thanks for having us.
Carroll: Thank you.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. And don’t forget the show notes page also has links to everything that we talked about in this episode.
Jeff: The shownotes also call out links to books that we talked about that have audio versions available from Libro.fm. Libro.fm is a great way to get audiobooks because when you buy one, you’re actually supporting a local bookstore of your choice. Plus, listeners of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast can get a two month audio book membership for the price of one. You can get all the details for that at BigGayFictionPodcast.com/librofm.
And thanks to Greg and Carroll so much for joining us. As you could hear, it was a super fun interview talking to them. I really loved hearing about how they do their work, especially working in the document at the same time. truly writing together. It kind of blew my mind but it obviously works so well for them.
And boy, I’m looking forward to digging into “A Friend in the Fire” too. Plus knowing that Shaw and North and, even briefly, Sebastian Snow ended up at a GRL type convention in Greg’s book “Indirection.” Oh man. That’s something I really have to get into my TBR sooner rather than later cause that sounds really exciting.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Thursday in episode 307 we have our spring preview available for you. We’re going to be talking about all of the books that we’re looking forward to and what we’ve been reading lately.
Jeff: Yes, I’ll have reviews of books that I’ve read from Layla Reyne and Anna Zabo.
Will: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, stay strong, be safe and above all else keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Jeff: Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Our original theme music is composed by Daryl Banner.