Stopping by today is multi-published author Mercy Celeste. Ms. Celeste’s newest novel Beyond Complicated was released by Silver Publishing May 5.
Kathy: Ms. Celeste, thank you for dropping in to chat with us today. What prompted you to try your hand at writing? How long did it take for you to become a published author?
Ms. Celeste: Thanks for having me, Kathy. Well, this is probably the easiest question to answer. The longest too. In ninth grade I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Not because I had to but because the movie was about to be released and the cast was filled with a whole lot of pretty guys. Back then Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise and nearly everyone in that movie were still nobodies. Anyway, after I devoured the book in about two hours while lying on the sofa in the band room (I can’t remember why I was in the band room and not class, practice for something that didn’t happen) I read Ms. Hinton’s bio. She was seventeen when she wrote The Outsiders. I knew just knew that I could write something like that. I knew I could write the great American coming of age story…and failed miserably. I’m sure those kids who came behind me in computer class who found some of my horrible attempts hidden on floppy disks (the really big ones) had a huge laugh at my expense. I gave up the idea because someone told me that I could never be a writer. That I had to live in New York and I would be forever stuck in this Podunk town. Well, for one I didn’t stay stuck in Podunkia, I went away to school. Lots of life happened. Kids, jobs, marriage, did I mention kids? My first three children are very close in age, my middle two are only thirteen months apart. In 1998 I had three kids under ten two under five and I was going out of my mind crazy. Daycare for the two preschoolers wasn’t affordable. It was more cost effective for me to be a SAHM. I shuttled one to kindergarten and took care of the little ones. And I wrote my first novel on eight yellow legal pads (front and back page) in pencil. My husband bought me a typewriter. A TYPEWRITER! And I typed it up. It’s still sitting in a storage box in my closet and will never see the light of day. After that I wrote two more books. One I threw away, it was that bad. The third one is a Western Historical that I almost, ALMOST sold to Pocket Books in 2001. They turned it down because the market had shifted and they were no longer focusing on American set historical especially Westerns. But if I have a Scottish Highlander book by all means send it in. I joined RWA and my local chapter Gulf Coast Chapter RWA in 2000. I finally sold my first book in 2004. Under my sort of real name Emjai Colbert (MJ). If Tomorrow Never Comes was the thirteenth book published by the now defunct Cerridwen Press, but it is still available as part of the Ellora’s Cave Blush line. So from first book to publication, seven whole frustrating years.
Kathy: In addition to male/male romances, you also write ménages that occasionally include women. Do you prefer one genre over another? Have any of your male/male storylines been hijacked by a female character?
Ms. Celeste: I started out as a straight romance writer, ITNC and my second book under my first pen name are both straight M/F romance. My first book as Mercy, Double Coverage, started out as just a straight romance. What would happen if the valedictorian and the quarterback hooked up at a reunion plot line? That book was hijacked by Bullet Brady. He decided he wanted in on the action and the story became a ménage. In hindsight I wish I’d had the guts to venture over into the M/M world with that book. I sure hinted that there was a relationship other than the one I showed in the story. I still would have included Kailey for a M/M/F. But no a female has never shown up in my purely M/M books to vie for one of the hero’s attention. I still write straight romance. My biggest selling book so far is a straight romance. Wicked Game from Liquid Silver Books. In fact I’m working on a sequel to that book right now. As well as two more gay romances. But honestly, I enjoy writing gay romance more. There is so much you can do that you can’t do in straight romance. And really, I’m better at writing heroes than heroines. Two heroes twice the fun.
Kathy: Where do you find inspiration for your storylines and characters? Real life? Imagination? A mix of both?
Ms. Celeste: Now this one is tough. You wouldn’t think it would be. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a snippet of something I’ve seen on TV. Sports, especially football. Shows like Supernatural where the buddy tension is pretty strong. What if? What if? What if? What if I trapped two guys together during a hurricane? How would I do that in a way I haven’t read a million times before? What would happen if I wrote a woman disguised as a boy and the hero DIDN’T see through the disguise? Why do people not push these buttons? And then I ask someone to speak to me and that’s when we’re off and running. I’m a pantster not a plotter. I take a basic what if idea and let it run until it’s through.
Kathy: What types of books do you read? Do your choices as a reader influence the type of books you write?
Ms. Celeste: To answer the second question first. Absolutely not. I read all over the spectrum. I love a good cozy mystery. Or Sci-Fi Fantasy, big big fan of Anne McCaffrey since I was a teen. Anne Rice. Love Lestat. But can’t write anything like that. I’ve tried my hand at writing YA but my characters always end up having sex, not teen behind the closed door type sex, full frontal all the way sex. So that’s what I write, romantic sex books. I read teen romances in the eighties and started reading Johanna Lindsey (you know the Fabio books) and Virginia Henley in the early nineties progressing on to Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips type contemporary romances. If anything I think those four ladies were my role models when I first started writing. I love the big sweeping romance, with some kinky sex thrown in.
Kathy: What is a typical day like as author Mercy Celeste? Do you work on multiple projects at one time? How long does it usually take you to complete a book?
Ms. Celeste: Typical day as a writer? If I can stay off Facebook long enough I spend my afternoons networking (okay on Facebook and twitter but it’s WORKING not playing shh don’t tell my kids). After dinner and baths and homework and dishes I put on headphones and start writing. I try for four hours a night. Usually I’ve gone through a review of the previous night’s work by the time I put the little kid to bed and then I write until my husband comes home from work around one in the morning. I like this time best, it’s quiet, no one outside my home is awake so no telephone calls to interrupt. I tend to work on one project at a time to keep the voice for that book as pure as possible; lately I’m swapping between two M/M books and the new football sequel. I’m experimenting to see if I can do it without snapping. If I can sit and work with no distractions or melt downs (I’ve had a couple of those) or blocks I can write a fifty thousand word book in a month. Beyond Complicated is ninety thousand words and it took me three months, with a two week mental melt down thrown in the middle. (BC was a tough book to write I explored a couple of dark places for that one). A short story, such as my upcoming June release Need You Now, took me ten days from beginning to submission. Twelve days from beginning to contract. When I write I write fast. It’s those times when I’m blocked that drags everything to a halt.
Kathy: Can you tell us a little about Beyond Complicated?
Ms. Celeste: Shh it’s complicated. BC is Liam McGuire’s story. It’s also my first attempt at first person POV. Liam was sixteen when his life was changed by a lie. At thirty-eight his life has been nothing but a series of events that spawned from that lie. We first meet Liam just before all of the lies that brought him to this point in his life come full circle and he is sent spiraling….okay vague too much. I know. It’s a tough story to explain without spoiling.
Kathy: Beyond Complicated pushes the envelope and crosses into what could be considered forbidden territory. Did you ever consider scrapping the storyline? Or was it a story that demanded to be told no matter the consequences?
Ms. Celeste: BC started out as more of a joke. I’ve read so many step brother step sister romances and wondered what would happen if…if a young man fell for an older “daddy” who may or may not be his real daddy or a step daddy or…and I ran with the story. I let the characters lead me where they wanted to go. Over bounds and into the is it or isn’t it incest realm. How do we define incest anyway? Until the twentieth century incest wasn’t as taboo as it is now. People routinely married their cousins to keep blood lines pure. Is incest, incest when procreation isn’t a factor? I played with the topic. For some reason I like pushing my writing past that safe zone. So I let Liam stumble and fall into this forbidden relationship and I twisted him around with all his lies and all of the lies that led him down a path that…well, it’s complicated. I think the story demanded that I write it. It might have started out as a joke subject but the story quickly became anything but a joke. I think I’ve touched on a sticky subject but I think I handled it pretty well. Honestly, I’m surprised the story will be published. And frankly, it does worry me that putting the Mercy name on it could damage my career before it really even begins. But it’s done and big breath and a huge pair of big girl panties this book is out. So let’s see what happens.
Kathy: What projects are you currently working on? What can readers look forward to from you in the upcoming year?
Ms. Celeste: Besides the cowboy book Let It Go I started in December and haven’t finished yet, a short story idea sort of 21 Jump Street type M/M of undercover cop and history teacher. And the sequel to my straight football romance Wicked Game. Of course, there is the June 2nd release of Need You Now from Silver publishing and I’ve promised the second Cold book Cold Shadow of Doubt for July 4th…and I have no idea when I’m going to sleep in the next four months.
Kathy: I have thoroughly enjoyed our visit today. Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?
Ms. Celeste: Thank you so much for letting ramble along about my books. Next to my kids it’s my favorite topic. Oh and if anyone is going to GRL in Albuquerque in October look for me and say hi. I’ll be the one wild eyed and panicking in the corner somewhere.
Kathy: LOL! I’ll be there to hold your hand! Ms. Celeste, congratulations on the release of Beyond Complicated. Feel free to drop by anytime you happen to be in the neighborhood.
Title: Beyond Complicated by Mercy Celeste
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: M/M, Contemporary, Erotic, Menage, Romance
Length: 375 pages
Liam McGuire has the perfect life–his job is a nightmare, his apartment was swank back in the eighties, and he has a secret so painful it could destroy him. What can top that? Meeting his son’s new boyfriend, that’s what.
For former porn star Liam McGuire, life is pretty tame, except that his twenty-one year old son is now dating the love of Liam’s life. At the ripe old age of thirty-eight, Liam’s entire world is collapsing around him, his past catching up with him, his secrets and his lies are coming back to bite him. All because Kel had to go and fall in love with Seth.
CONTENT ADVISORY: This title contains incestuous subject matter.