To kick off the holiday season, Jeff & Will welcome Roan Parrish. The conversation starts with Christmas and Roan’s holiday romance The Lights on Knockbridge Lane. The book, the third in the Garnet Run series, is historic in that it’s the first time an m/m romance has been a part of a Harlequin series line. Roan talks about the romance between Adam and Wes, writing about pets that aren’t cats and dogs, as well as writing her first ever child character.
Shifting gears to Halloween, we discuss Roan’s Audible Original Strange Company. This collection of creepy short stories includes a mix of old and new stories perfect for the season. Roan shares her love of Halloween and scary things, as well as the experience of working with her girlfriend, Timmi Meskers, who composed the music for the production.
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.
- Roan Parrish Interview
- Roan Parrish: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok
- The Lights on Knockbridge Lane by Roan Parrish on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Better Than People by Roan Parrish on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Gilmore Girls on Netflix
- Strange Company by Roan Parrish, music by Tammi Meskers on Amazon
- Dear Romance Writer Podcast website
- 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.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we’re celebrating Halloween and Christmas with author Roan Parrish.
Will: Welcome to episode 338 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance readers. It’s great to have you back for another episode of the show as we actually kick off the holiday season.
I had such a wonderful time talking to Roan Parrish recently. As you’ve probably heard by now, Roan’s book, “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane,” is historic because it’s the first gay romance to be published in a Harlequin series line. And that would be reason enough to discuss this book with her, but we also love the “Garnet Run” series so much, and of course we love Christmas too.
But it’s not all about Christmas in this interview. We also discuss Roan’s Audible Original “Strange Company,” which is a creepy collection of short stories that of course is perfect for Halloween. She’s even got more Halloween news too as we talk about a book that she’s got coming in 2022, that is also focused on that holiday.
So let’s dive right in and celebrate some holidays with Roan Parrish.
Roan Parrish Interview
Jeff: Roan, welcome back to the podcast. It is so good to have you here.
Roan: Oh, thanks. It’s wonderful to be back.
Jeff: And we’re getting to kick off the holiday season with you, which is one of our very favorite times of year, because we’re celebrating the release of “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane,” such a beautiful cover and such a delightful book.
Before we dig into that particular book, it is the third book in your “Garnet Run” series. And for those who haven’t maybe picked up one of those yet, tell us what “Garnet Run’s” about.
Roan: Yeah. So Garnet Run is a small town in Wyoming. It is, alas, fictional as of yet. But it is the setting for the whole series of interconnected books. So the characters that you meet in book one, book two, book three, get teased and all the other books.
So the first book is “Better than People” and it is kind of a grouchy artist meets super shy virgin book. It is about Jack, who is a reclusive kind of grouchy artist whose been through some stuff lately and has his only contact really was animals.
So he has this huge pack of rescue animals, and he just wants to be at home except when he walks his animals every day. So when he breaks his leg, he can’t do that anymore and has to bring in some help. And he gets that help through an app that matches people who don’t have pets, but want to spend time with pets, with people who need help, which I don’t know if that’s real but it should be.
Jeff: It should be, totally.
Roan: Yeah. So he meets up with Simon who is a pet lover who lives with an allergic grandmother. And Simon comes into his life to walk his animals. Simon suffers from extreme anxiety. He’s super shy. Has a difficult time communicating with new people, especially grouchy new people. And so when they meet it does not go well, but little by little as they’re in each other’s lives they grow a friendship and a mutual curiosity. And then that turns into a really deep love affair.
It’s very cozy, very cabin in the woodzy, and sweet although sexy, I will say.
And then the second book in the series is about Jack’s brother, older brother, Charlie. And Charlie and Jack’s parents died when they were really young. And so Charlie has sort of taken on this adult role of raising Jack, taking over the family hardware store and kind of getting adultified long before he was really an adult.
And he has spent his whole life, single, never dated, never slept with anyone, never really had much interest. And into town rolls newcomer, Rye from Seattle, who basically inherited the home of a family member that he never knew. And his life in Seattle was not going well. He didn’t have anything except a place to live. And so he packed up and moved to Garnet Run kind of thinking like, oh, at least I’ll have a home here. That’s great.
But when he shows up, it’s like a busted shambles of a place and it’s like him and his backpack and his manky cat. And he’s sitting around being like I guess I need to try to fix this up. So he goes into the hardware store and meets Charlie and Charlie has never let anyone do a project without some help, if he can help it.
So Charlie gets involved, Rye start staying with him while the house is in progress. And although they’re really different from one another, they start falling for each other. And Charlie is working through experiences of kind of attraction for the first time, since he was a teenager and he isn’t sure that he experiences sexual attraction, isn’t sure that he’s interested in sex and Rye is like, great. Let’s figure it out. And if you’re not, that’s cool. And if you are then pick me and great. And so they embark on sort of a sexual awakening for Charlie and a romantic really awakening for both of them.
So we’ve got like book one dogs, book two cats, and then we’ve got book three “Lights on Knockbridge Lane”, which we’ll talk about, which features a little bit, some less fuzzy animal friends.
Jeff: Indeed it does. Yeah. And I tell you, I’m right there with Adam. It’s like, oh, maybe I’ll wait over there.
Let’s talk about the animals a little bit. What led you to populate with cats and dogs and really in “Best Laid Plans,” like Marmot to me was practically a side character. So much personality in that little fuzzball.
Roan: Yeah. I love animals. Like any time I’m in a space and there are animals or people, I would generally rather go hang out with the animals.
It’s nothing new really. I’m sure everyone else who loves animals knows what I mean, but I find their company so beautiful and calming, and warm and pure. And so I really wanted to write these, these books that in a small town. And one of the things that I think about small towns, which for me was a metaphor for the pandemic, it’s like, everything is sort of closed in a little bit. You’re only with a smaller number of people. You’ve chosen the people who are around you, or maybe you haven’t, and you’re stuck with them.
But I kind of felt like this entire pandemic has felt a little bit like small townness, even for those of us who live in cities. And so I think one of the things that’s really true for me about that closing in and about small towns in general, or like hanging out in people’s houses instead of hanging out at a bar or an art gallery, is that people’s pets are really like a big part of any time you go there.
Going over to a friend’s house, it’s like you see them and you see their three cats and when you’re hanging out, the cats are around. Or, you go to your friend’s house and they have a dog. And so you’re cooking dinner. And before you eat, you take the dog for a walk and there’s this way, the animals are really like, a part of the daily workings of our lives that I really wanted to honor in these books.
I love the animals in the books. I loved writing them. I loved giving them personalities cause I really do think animals have such personalities. But, I also really wanted to show like an animal can be a way for two people to connect as well.
And I think we see this with kids sometimes in movies, it’s like the couple that’s not really working out, but their kid it’s like a parent trap. The kid brings them back together. And I kind of wanted to do that with animals too, is that like you can express love a little more easily for an animal maybe then for someone that you care for and don’t know how to express that love. But, you can show someone, Hey, this is how I express love. So you’ll recognize it if I ever act this way to you.
So like if you show a character who’s shy, taking an extra minute to stroke a dog’s ears. And you know that they love that dog. Then if they reach over and they push your hair behind your ear, you’re familiar. Like this is a gesture of love and caring.
So yeah, I wanted to sort of show people, being able to share that love with animals, kind of as a segue, into sharing that love for each other.
Jeff: And we’ll definitely come back to animals a little bit here in a moment as we get into talking about the Christmas romance with “Lights on Knockbridge Lane”. So tell folks what they’re in for with Adam and Wes story.
Roan: Yeah. So Adam and Wes. It is a single dad romance. It’s the first time I’ve ever written a kid into a romance. So Adam is a native Garnet Run, Runner? Garnet Runnion? Garnet? He’s from Garnet Run and he has been living in Colorado with his husband. And Gus is actually his sister’s biological child. And he takes her on when is his sister isn’t able to raise her and thinks of her as a daughter completely.
And when he gets divorced from his partner in Colorado, he and Gus move back to Garnet Run, partly because his sibling River lives there and wants to be part of Gus’s life. And partly because he doesn’t really have anywhere else to go and it’s someplace that is familiar and inexpensive. So he and Gus move onto Knockbridge Lane. And the second they move there, they start hearing rumors of the neighbor at the end of the block, which is across the street from them.
And all the neighbors are like, he’s weird. He never comes out during the day. He gets strange packages delivered. I’ve seen him like skulking around at night doing creepy things. So people think he’s like a witch or a vampire or, they dreamed all these stories about him because they haven’t spoken to him.
And the book actually begins with Adam answering the door to find this Wes, this like much spoken about creepy guy, bringing Gus back to him. After Gus has like run out of the house while Adam thought she was playing in her room and gone across the street, broken into Wes’s basement window and stayed down there hanging out cause he had lizards and she thought they were cool.
So Gus is like super intense, very nerdy, interested in like science and inventions and the natural world. And Adam is like, Adam worships her in a nice, healthy way. He just thinks that she’s like the greatest thing and his real desire is to give her a great Christmas because she’s just been uprooted, moved from Colorado, taken away from her other parents, or, not taken away, but not having contact with him for Christmas. And so he asks Gus like, what would make you feel good for Christmas? And Gus says, I want the most lights in the whole world on our house.
And Adam is yes, great cause he’s like she could have asked for a trip to Hawaii or whatever. It seems great at first. And then Adam realizes how many lights it will take to cover their house, how expensive they are, how difficult it is to hang lights when you’re like maybe kind of just a little bit afraid of heights.
And Wes, the neighbor is always there and it turns out he is not a vampire or a witch or. I mean, he’s a little bit of a freak, I guess. But he is a scientist and inventor. And he is very phobic of having attention on him. He doesn’t like to be seen. He doesn’t like to have people watch him. And so he rarely goes out during the day, not because the sun will burn his skin into ashes, but because he’s very private.
And so him coming out of his shell literally to make contact with Adam is actually like the first in what will be a kind of a neighbor to neighbor romance, where they bounce back and forth between their two houses and slowly fall in love, kind of with Gus leading the charge because she’s so interested in Wes and everything that he has going on. So it’s really about both of them overcoming fear.
Adam is scared that he can’t be a good single dad. He’s scared that he can’t make Gus happy. He’s scared of lizards and spiders and all these things. And Wes is scared of going outside of his house. He’s scared of public attention and he’s scared of getting hurt. And Gus is really the one who’s fearless and can express herself, can express what she wants. And she kind of drags the both of them into confronting their love for each other.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s really interesting. Even from the very beginning of the book, how much Gus is like, okay, you adults do whatever. I want to go over here and do this, which kind of is enchanting to both of them and helps even draw them together because she’s going to do whatever she wants to do, essentially.
Roan: Yeah. So I’ve never written a kid before. I have very little experience with kids. Never had ’em don’t want them, not interested in them generally as a like age category. But my sister and her wife had a kid two years ago. And I am like experiencing what it’s like for the first time to have a kid in my family and Omega their kid is, they’re just delightful. And also I have like a two hour, like that’s my capacity is I have about two hours and then I’m alright, great, got to go, be quiet and be with people who listen to me when I talk, but it’s cool.
But I think partly what I wanted to do was to pay a kind of homage to that level of unconscious. Like, the time when you can talk as a kid, but you haven’t been beaten down yet by society’s ideas of what you’re supposed to do, to me is like this extremely precious thing where you are able to express what you want, what you like, what you don’t want, what you don’t like, who you don’t like. And we get socialized out of those, honest feelings and honest expressions, pretty young, but I think it’s something to strive for actually. And I think most adult relationships, especially romances, or maybe just the way I write them. But the way I think of relationships is like, it’s about actually trying to find your way back to that kind of true, deeply honest communication of desire. What do you want, what do you not want? Who do you want? Who do you not want? How do you want it?
And I think I got interested in writing like a romance with a kid. And even though I’m really not that interested in generally in, in real life children, because I wanted to write a kid character that was in that age of like still being in touch with her deep desires, interests, convictions, so that she could model that for two adults neither of whom were in touch with those things for themselves.
So Adam has spent most of his life taking care of other people, taking care of his family, taking care of his ex. Now taking care of a child and has, is like not in touch with his desires, his needs. And Wes has spent, I won’t give anything away about Wes’s backstory and why he doesn’t like being seen, but Wes has spent his life kind of being at the whim of other people and the only way that he was able to get what he wanted was to retreat and be totally self isolated.
And so neither of them have this tool of like communicating their desire, their needs, their preferences, and yet like, exactly, like you said, I wanted them both to be enchanted enough with Gus, that they could learn from her and learn that like, actually, like we get taught that it’s rude, but saying, no, I don’t like that. Yes. I want this. And I don’t want to do that. Are like, that’s what we’re all trying to get back to eventually. So yeah, so that was kind of why I wanted to write a book with a kid in it.
Jeff: And it does seem to be a little bit of the theme of the “Garnet Run” books too, in that there’s always these two people who, for various reasons throughout the six characters who find love here, that they don’t know how to communicate anymore. They don’t even know how to tell themselves what they want. Was that something that you were looking to tell in these books or did it just kind of turn out that way?
Roan: Maybe a little bit of both. I was definitely interested in telling stories about characters who didn’t have an easy time communicating for lots of different reasons.
Simon in “Better Than People” because of his anxiety. Jack because he’d recently been hurt. Charlie because he never learned to, and Rye is actually a pretty good communicator, but he’s never had the security and the safety to feel like he was able to do that.
So yeah, I was really interested in looking at that, but I also think, I started writing “Better Than People,” as I was getting into our relationship. And it was really on my mind, I think this idea of communication and one of the things, I was actually just texting with my girlfriend before this, when we were talking about like, how compatible our modes of communication are and how both of us in the past have been told that our communication style wasn’t good.
Which means we were clearly like in relationships where they weren’t compatible, but how we actually are extremely compatible the way we communicate. And so I think like from the very beginning of our relationship, I was really thinking about like, what does it mean when, like, there are lots of barriers to communication and sometimes those are barriers within ourselves. Like we’re not good at something we never learned that we have blocks or fears. But sometimes it’s that you have a mode of communication that has simply not been honored by the other relationships you’ve been in.
And I think Simon is a great example of this. Like his barriers are internal in that his anxiety is his own, but he’s actually a great communicator it’s that the world has not been willing to receive his mode of communication. And there’s a scene in that book where he and Jack are first trying to communicate and they realize it’s better for Simon to text, because speaking is really hard for him. When he’s very nervous, he stutters, he stammers. And then they go on to have a full conversation over text, which of course we all know is possible, cause we have conversations over text all the time. It’s just that this was in person.
And yeah, I was thinking a lot about communication because of this relationship. And so that sort of set the theme and then as I was building out the series, I wanted to continue that, but it was also just very much on my mind naturally, I think.
Jeff: And swinging back to animals. Let’s talk a little bit more about those characters in “Knockbridge” because Wes has quite a collection going on in his house. What, sent you from, what we all consider the fuzzy and warm cats and dogs even talked about the warmth that animals can bring, but here Wes has animals that were not initially going to think of as warm, fuzzy companions.
Roan: So Wes has lizards and snakes and a tarantula. He does have a couple of raccoons, which are fuzzy. And gosh, I think he has a couple other things rattling around in there. Wes as a scientist and his science or his interest is in bioluminescence. And so I think part of it is that he is interested in the usefulness of certain creatures.
Like a lot of bioluminescence comes from sea creatures. Creatures that are not warm and fuzzy, they’re like amphibious or slimy, whatever you would think of. But also Wes loves his tarantula. He loves his lizards. He pets his tarantula the way you would pet a cat. And I guess they are fuzzy to be fair.
Jeff: I guess. A little bit, yeah.
Roan: And he and Adam have this conversation multiple times where, you know, Adam is very scared of them. Scared of snakes. Scared of spiders, particularly. And he’s like, they’re just not cute. They’re not fuzzy. They move weird. They’re like they startle me and Wes says, Yeah, you’re scared of them. That’s why you don’t think they’re cute, but like they have personalities, they have desires. They can like people too. His tarantula likes him. Like it likes to sit with him. He knows its personality and where it will be at certain times of the day.
And what builds throughout the book is this like, of course I’ll say it and it’ll sound super obvious, but this metaphor that like in the same way that spiders, lizards snakes. Other kinds of things that we think of are scary are maligned, but are actually gentle and loving and, I mean not the poisonous ones, but you know, that like Wes feels like one of them. So he feels like he has also been maligned, thought of in a way that he doesn’t think of himself.
And so he really identifies with these animals. People hate raccoons cause they like, they have rabies and they break into your garbage and they’re gross. And all these things. Or like, snakes are scary. Spiders are scary. And he really honors them, I think, for what they are. And that is what he wishes is that someone would honor him for what he is.
And in the end, I think that’s what Adam is able to give to him is Adam sees him very clearly. Adam doesn’t want him to be someone that he’s not. He wants to love him for who he is. And I think that’s such a romance theme, right? Where like the idea isn’t to find a person who’s perfect. It’s to find the perfect relationship for you. Like someone who looks at you and likes all the things about you that you are and that you appreciate all the things about them that they are.
And so I was interested in that, since one of the themes of the series has been animals, like what would it look like to write a book with someone whose pets of choice are not warm and fuzzy? And like, what would that say about them as a character. And Wes, I think is like a super, super open-minded person, even though he has these limitations because of fear and his past experiences, he is interested in science and experiments and invention, he wants to learn new things. That’s one of the ways I wanted to show his open-mindedness was to show someone who could look at a snake and see a pet just as warm and fuzzy as a kitten.
Jeff: Was there extra research for you to deal with having these particular animals in a home? I feel like we all think I know how to write a dog. I know how to write a cat. I know how they behave. But then you’ve got spiders and lizards and raccoons.
Roan: Yeah, I did do research, because I used to be very scared of spiders. When I was first deciding that I wanted to write a book with a tarantula in it, I was like, okay, gird your loins. You’re going to have to like Google things about them. And I imagined myself like holding my hand up to cover the picture as I was reading the Wikipedia article.
But I actually like, the thing about fear that I think is so interesting is so often it is just a thin layer of fear that stands between us and fascination. And I am fascinated by nature. I always have loved, like learning about nature, learning about animals and creatures and plants. And I’ve always had this thought in my head that’s like, it’s too bad. I’m so scared of spiders because otherwise I’d be really into them.
And it’s such a funny thought to have, because of course, fears are like out of our control to a certain degree. And certainly I’m not suggesting that people with phobias should just go and like Google pictures of spiders. But over the years I’ve worked really hard to kind of build up a tolerance to being able to see those pictures.
Jeff: Now, “Lights on Knockbridge Lane” is a major milestone for gay romance because it’s moving out of the Carina Adores line, where the other two books have been, and it’s actually part of Harlequin Special Edition, which is just incredible. Congratulations on that. How did that come about?
Roan: I’m glad you asked. It’s really interesting because one of the things that I’m incredibly honored for this. So it’s the first queer romance on page for a Harlequin series book. And I’m not like a Harlequin reader. I didn’t grow up reading Harlequin. So I didn’t actually know what that meant when I first signed the contract. So in case other people don’t know what it means, the Harlequin series are like Special Edition. The suspense series Desire. Like, they have these names. They’re series that a lot of people like subscribe to so they get all the books in a series, which is different than Carina, which is an imprint of Harlequin. And Carina has been publishing lots and lots of queer romance.
So this is different only because it’s a lot of people who are signed on to get every book in a series. So they will receive this book even without choosing to purchase it themselves. If that makes sense. Which I just didn’t know that because a non Harlequin reader.
So first of all, I’m like extremely excited and honored to be the first book, but also I’m just glad it’s happening. Every other big five has a romance imprint that’s been publishing gay romance for years now. So Harlequin is really the last publisher standing that hadn’t been doing it regularly. And so it’s a huge milestone for them.
The way it came about actually was very random. It’s not as if I was tapped to do this at all. The first two books were contracted with Carina and my lovely editor, Carrie, sent the manuscript of “Better Than People” to the editor of Special Editions, because she thought she would like it. And the editor of Special Editions, there was just like a miscommunication, thought that she was forwarding her manuscript for publication and was like, “Oh yeah, I love it. I want to buy it.” And Carrie was like, “Oh, no, sorry. We already bought it. Carina already got it? But I’ll check with Roan and see if she wants to like extend the series.
And so what happened was like a sheer miscommunication. And then the editor of Special Editions reaching out to me and saying, would you like to write the second two books, or like the third and fourth book in the series and have them come out through Special Editions? And I said, I don’t know what a Special Edition is, but yes, sure.
And I’m being perfectly candid because one of the things that I know a lot of people might take issue with is that this is a male/male romance book. And I am not a man. And I think that there are people who will think that like the first person to publish a gay romance with Special Editions should have been a man. And I completely understand that way of thinking. And so I want to be like super transparent that this was not about being tapped to write the first anything. This was really about an editor falling in love with a book and it not being available and then wanting to extend a series.
So I’m so glad that I get to participate in this, but it is nothing about me as a person or as a writer, honestly, that is making this happen. It’s about the book that this editor wanted and I believe very deeply in if you can take an opportunity to move along something that should have been happening already, it is worth moving that along. And it’s like really important to me to be clear about that because within queer romance, like there’s a lot of who should be writing this, who should be allowed to write different things. What is honor versus fetish?
These are like super important conversations that I’m so interested in having an glad that we have in this genre. But also as a queer person, I am really honored to be able to be participating in this milestone. And my biggest investment is that this book do well so that, all of the Harlequin imprints, all of the Harlequin lines open up to other queer authors of all stripes, writing queer stories of all stripes. That’s my number one goal.
And I’m like really pushing this book for myself. I want it to do well, of course. I want all my books to do well. But it’s bigger than me. And I really want to make sure that every single queer author gets a chance to publish in Harlequin lines because economically they have the chance to make more money with Harlequin lines than some other publishers. It matters so much to me to be really transparent about like the economics and the politics and everything behind publishing, because there are things that I think a lot of times readers don’t know about, don’t necessarily want to know about so fast forward, if that’s you, but I do think that like these things matter from a political standpoint and from an economic standpoint and yeah, so I just want to be really clear about that and I’m glad you asked.
Jeff: It’s important on so many levels. Not just, for sure, moving queer stories into the Harlequin series in the same way. We’ve seen other types of diversification in the Harlequin series in the last few years. And it was a big deal when Carina who had been publishing queer stories for a while, then made the entire queer imprint of Adores. It didn’t mean that Carina stopped doing queer books. There’s now, both of those lines have that. So hopefully yes, you’re the first of now what will hopefully be many Harlequin lines?
Roan: Exactly. And that’s my hope. And the explosion of queer stories, trans stories, queer stories of color, trans stories of color, that is the priority. And I think that once there’s one, there will be more. That’s my hope anyway.
And it’s been a long time coming. Honestly. I didn’t know that this would be the first one in the Harlequin lines when I contracted it. I was pretty surprised to hear it. But I kind of feel like it was about to happen, whoever it was going to be. I’m I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I am really grateful that it is me, but I just think it’s like, it’s not about me. It’s about the fact that this should be happening. It is happening. I’m glad it’s happening. And my biggest hope is that now that it’s happened once, it can happen a million more times.
Jeff: And it sounds like if I heard you it’s going to happen at least one more time with you. Did I hear fourth “Garnet Run” book come out of your mouth there.
Roan: Yes, it’s true. It’s true. There, there will be a fourth “Garnet Run” book. It is written and being edited and it is a Halloween book, which makes me really happy because Halloween’s my favorite holiday.
Jeff: Yeah, we’ll for sure be talking about Halloween in just a little bit too. And that was going to be Special Edition also?
Roan: It is, yeah.
Jeff: Nice. I can’t wait to see Halloween and “Garnet Run.”
Garnet Run is it’s such a nice place. You’ve mentioned that it was totally fictional. What went into creating this town for you?
Roan: Maybe four years ago, I went on a trip with some dear friends to Wyoming and we stayed in this cabin in like a very high elevation that I won’t try to remember cause I don’t remember elevations. But it was harder to breathe and things elevation. So it was beautiful, like, protected land forests and these crystal clear lakes and just absolutely beautiful. Animals like moose coming out of the forest in the morning, like that we could see from the window. It was amazing.
I was totally captivated by the landscape of Wyoming. I’d never been there before. I haven’t spent much time in like the middle west area and there was something about the place that just. I fell in love with it. And at first I was like, oh my God, I want to move here. And then I was like, okay, no maybe I just want to fictionally move here and write a series set here.
It’s not based on a real town per se, but it is based on a real space, the real, like nature and the vastness of space around places and natural like wildlife and everything like that was really my inspiration. And so then when it came time to create like a small town, I love small towns as settings, I think.
When I was writing it, I was thinking like, I want it to feel like Stars Hollow or something from the “Gilmore Girls” where it’s like, there’s the person who owns this store and the person who owns that store. And then maybe they’re a little weird, but you just have to roll with their weirdness. And yeah, so that’s kind of how I went about creating Garnet Run, and I loved the idea of this little gay Stars Hollow in Wyoming.
Jeff: Is there a scene within “Knockbridge” that really kind of stands out as your favorite?
Roan: There are so many. Okay, there is a scene where, I don’t think this gives anything away. There’s a scene where Adam takes Gus sledding with Charlie and Rye from “Best Laid Plans” and Jack and Simon from “Better Than People.” And they all go sledding down the hill behind Mathison’s hardware.
And it’s such a joyful playful scene. It’s like not central to the plot. It’s not like part of the romance necessarily, but it’s the scene where Adam experiences the profound joy of watching his daughter and his friends interact and like spieling celebratory of life. And I’m such a sucker for like, I don’t know, small pleasures, I guess.
Like I love pausing in a moment that feels amazing or fun or exciting and being like, “Oh my God, I’m so happy right now.” It’s one of the things that like brings me great joy when I can write those little scenes and fit them into books because they’re so important to me, like as part of my life.
So I think is just this like beautiful snowy sled, sledding time where everyone’s happy, and Gus is like in her element, having all these grownups to play with. Cause she really likes playing with grownups.
Jeff: She does. Doesn’t she?
Roan: Yeah. And I really identify with this because when I was a kid, I was like, I didn’t want to play with all the kids. I just want to know what all the grownups were doing.
Jeff: And of course it’s, we’re talking about a Christmas romance, I have to ask. What are some of your favorite holiday tradition?
Roan: Oh my gosh. Okay. So I am Jewish and I was raised Jewish and I have this conviction that is totally unscientific, but has been born out by like many of my friends who are Jewish that there’s this particular love of Christmas, that some Jewish people have, because we have no negative associations with it.
So like, if you grow up and you celebrate Christmas, every Christmas, you have a, like the freight of like family drama or you didn’t get the presence you wanted. Or maybe like there was a fight and it ruined Christmas or it was stressful or whatever. And I feel like if you’re Jewish, you’ve never celebrated it so you don’t have any of the negative associations. You can just create this like fantasy of a holiday that is just fun and lights and decorations, et cetera.
So I’m pretty like, not at all religious. I don’t really care about getting presents that much. But I love a cozy mood. It’s my absolute favorite thing in the whole world. And so my favorite thing to do for like celebrating holiday stuff, whatever it is to do like a themed hangout day.
Christmas slash Hanukkah slash whatever the winter holiday is. So my sister is like my best friend and my sister and her wife live right nearby. And and my girlfriend lives, around the corner. And like last year, for example, they all came over and I baked cookies and we spent the day like icing, decorating gingerbread cookies while watching holiday movies and like listening to holiday music, not like Christmas carols, but just like wintery music.
And we ate food and snacks and like had these movies on, in the background. And we turned the air conditioning on so that we could wear big, heavy sweaters. Cause it wasn’t actually that cold in Philly last winter. So we, maybe I just turned the heat off, whatever it was, but so like we could purposely bundle up and feel really cozy. And it’s like the nerdiest thing, but I just like, I want a day of cozy coziness.
Jeff: Let’s shift from Christmas stories to Halloween. You’ve got an Audible Original called “Strange Company,” billed as a queer horror collection that blends music and prose to bring its haunted worlds to life. Tell us about these creepy tails.
Roan: Yeah. I am so thrilled about “Strange Company.” It has been like a real passion project for me. I am a huge horror fan and I have been for a long time. And I think that there are people who think that romance and horror are sort of like strangely opposite, but to me they’re very related.
And I know there are lots of people in romancelandia who are also horror fans. So it was really exciting to me. A couple of the stories that are in the collection I had written years ago for anthologies, that I was a part of. But then the others are new.
And I love the short story as a format. It’s something that I haven’t gotten to do that much of in romance. Cause there’s not really a market for it, but I love short stories. I think they’re amazing. And I love horror and I think the short story is a great form for the genre of horror.
And so it’s six stories. Timmi Meskers did the music and that’s my girlfriend. She’s amazing. She’s an amazing musician. And we dreamed up this project together. It started as like one day me being like, Hey, I have these horror stories and I don’t know what to do with them. I kind of want to do a, like an anthology, but I don’t know. Would you ever wanted to, like collaborate where you wrote some music and blah, blah, blah.
And it started out just as like, maybe this’ll be cool. And then a year later it’s fully scored. She did, so much work. Not only did she compose all the music, which was amazing, but she did all the cues. So she was in charge of like what music went, where, and she had way more work than me. It came out in June for Pride Month and it’s been amazing.
So the stories are, set in different time periods. They feature different characters, so they’re not interrelated. But the themes I think, are like, they have some themes that carry through. Themes about not being able to trust like what is reality and what is inside your own head? Themes about what is the line between the normal world and like the supernatural world that might lurk just outside what we can see And themes about like love and desire and where they edge up against obsession and horror.
And those are all things that I’m super fascinated by obviously. It was an amazing collaboration, so fun. And also like we were both just really gratified that Audible got behind it and promoted it for Pride Month. And hopefully we’ll get to do more in that vein. More horror. I would love to do more horror. I would love to do more things where the music and the story work together, because the way we designed it, like, some of it was, I would write the story and send it to Timmi and she would compose the music, but it would also, we did it the other way around too.
Like she had a piece that she had written and titled that she sent to me and was like, this piece is called “Magic Lantern.” Do something with it. And I wrote the story, “Magic Lantern” based on this piece that she’d composed. And it was a really cool, I think, as a writer, often you start with a blank page and no parameters, and it was really cool to have some parameters of ” take this and write something based off it.” It’s just like a different way of thinking a different way of being creative. And I love it.
Jeff: Do you have a favorite creepy moment from the collection that people should listen out for?
Roan: Okay. I have two. I think in the story “Company,” there is a moment in a bathroom. That I don’t want to give it away, but yeah, there’s a moment in a bathroom where one character suddenly appears to another. That is creepy, and I really appreciate. And then in the story, “Rose Window” there are several moments where the two main characters have conflicts. And I think that the narrator just did an amazing job expressing the sort of chillingness that can happen in interpersonal fights when one person is perhaps not fully in touch with reality.
Jeff: Okay. So people can listen out for those.
So we’ve teased a little bit about what’s coming next. You’re maybe working on some more audio projects. We know there’s “Garnet Run” four out there for next Halloween. Anything else you could tease us about what’s coming soon?
Roan: Yes, I would be delighted to tease you. I’m actually really excited. I just finished my first romcom actually, which will be coming out next, next September, maybe. I don’t have a firm date, but it was so fun to write. I, of course I’m familiar with the movie genre of the romcom, but this new sort of book version of the romcom that has kind of happened, I’m super delighted by.
And I love humor and I do think that sometimes my stuff is funny, but it’s definitely not what I’m going for. And so it was really cool to write something that was like a little bit more leaning into not comedy, like knock, knock who’s there, but comedy like the absurdity of the universe kind of comedy.
So it’s really. I’m delighted. So did you ever see the movie, “The Holiday”. The house swap romance? So I wrote this and in my head, I called it “The Holigay” because it’s a house swap romance, but it’s gay. The actual title that it will be called is “The Holiday Trap.”
So it is a double romance, house swap romance. So we have Gretta who is living in this small town in Maine and is really, has this big family that’s super close and very like intrusive in each other’s lives. And it’s coming up on, it’s like December 1st and she wants to get out of town. But she has all these plants. And so she can’t leave without someone to water her plants.
And then in New Orleans, we have Truman who goes to bring his boyfriend a Christmas present because his boyfriend is going out of town and walks in and realizes that his boyfriend actually is married to another man. And he’s been the side piece all along and it has a whole other life and he’s mortified and horrified and is like, oh my God, I have to get out of town. But he has a dog, and so he can’t leave.
So Gretta and Truman have this mutual friend and they both call her and are like, oh my God, my life is in shambles. I have to get out of town. And their friend is like, you’re the second person who said that to me today. I have an idea. I think you guys should swap.
So Gretta moves to new Orleans to live in Truman’s house. Truman moves to Maine, to live in Gretta’s house. And thus begins each of their kind of like rebirth and romance in this new place. So Truman ends up falling in love with Ash who is a local flower shop owner in Maine. Gretta falls in love with Charisse, who is a math grad student who also has a lot of other stuff going on. She gives ghost tours. So they fall in love in New Orleans.
And it kind of follows both of them as they like fall in love, both with a new place and a new person. But also kind of fall back in love with themselves. And there’s a lot more going on, you know, because it’s a longer book. It’s like not quite as focused only on the romances.
So like in Truman’s storyline, he is obsessed with this fantasy series and like starts trying to uncover this mystery about who the author of this series was. And in Gretta’s time in New Orleans, she is making friends with Charisse’s housemates and they’re starting this business together.
So there’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s very like ensemble casty as well as romancey. And it’s set in two places I really love. So I lived in New Orleans for a little while and was super excited to write something set there. And Maine is one of my favorite places to visit. And so it was sort of me being like, I wish I could travel, but I can’t. So I’ll write this book in two places. And yeah, I’m really excited for people to see that one.
Jeff: Oh, that sounds like so much fun. I can’t wait.
So how could everyone keep up with you online to get all the updates on future projects and things?
Roan: Yeah. So the repository of all things is that roanparrish.com. So if you ever have any questions of where you can find my social media or new releases, it’s all there roanparrish.com. But I’m also on all the social medias. I think almost everything is at @Roanparrish.
I have recently joined TikTok and I love consuming it, but I have not quite yet figured out my niche of how to use it. So here, this is my dream. Would be for people to follow me on TikTok and like ask me questions or tell me things that they want to see, because I want you to do part of my work for me. That’s what I would love.
Jeff: We’ll see if we can get some people talking to you about that.
Roan: Yes, please do. Because I want to participate, but I’m like every time I think of something to record, I’m like, that’s stupid. No one cares. Or I’m like, that’s a great idea. I look like I just got run over by a truck and I’m not putting my face on. Whatever. So yeah, I would love that.
And then the other place you can find me is, since you are podcast, listeners is I have a podcast with the lovely Xio Axelrod and Avery Flynn called “Dear Romance Writer,” which is an advice podcast. We have a website at dearromancewriter.com. And in that website, you can like write to us and ask us questions, which is what we answer during the podcast. And so we would love love, any questions you have about relationships, love, family, really anything.
Jeff: Roan, thank you so much for being here. We wish you so much success with “Knockbridge Lane” and your other projects as well.
Roan: Thank you. It was such a pleasure chatting with you and I appreciate it so much.
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’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Also on the show notes page, you’ll find links to the audio books that are available on Libro.fm, which include Roan’s “Garnet Run” series. Libro.fm is the place that when you buy an audio book, you’re also supporting a local bookstore of your choice. Listeners to the Big Gay Fiction Podcast have the opportunity to get a two month audio book membership for the price of one. For details, and to take advantage of that offer, simply go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/librofm.
And thanks again to Roan. I loved so much hearing about her love of small towns and how she wanted to create a gay Stars Hollow in Wyoming. I really love her take on the small towns with the “Garnet Run” series, and I’m so happy to know that there’s a fourth book coming next year.
Will: Now, before we wrap things up, I want to make a special announcement and let you know that we’ve selected “Lights on Knockbridge Lane” as our book club pick for the month of November. We’re making this announcement now because this is a Harlequin category romance and it will only be on bookstore shelves for a limited time.
If you’d like to get a paperback copy at your local bookshop, drug store, supermarket, or wherever you normally find Harlequins in your area, do so before the end of the month before they’re gone. Otherwise, you can find ebook, paperback, and audio book editions anytime at your favorite online retail. We hope that you’ll join us in reading this history making holiday romance next month.
And don’t forget, there’s still plenty of time to read October’s book club selection, “This is not a Horror Movie” before that episode drops on October 28.
Now coming up next, on Thursday in episode 339, we’re going to be doing more damage to your book buying budget.
Jeff: Yes, we are. We’re going to have some book reviews for you. Plus we’re going to be looking at some of the books that are coming out over the next couple of weeks that we are excited about.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kind of stories that we all love, the big gay fiction kind. So until then keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.