Kathy: Author Val Kovalin has stopped by to chat with us today about her latest release, a gay contemporary second chance at love romance between two friends, Fall Into the Sun. Thank you for taking time out of your busy question to answer a few questions for us.
I always have to begin by asking what motivated you to become a writer? How long have you been writing, and was it a long process to become a published author?
Ms. Kovalin: I got motivated when I finally made myself check out the internet, which was in 2006. I was probably one of the last people on the planet to go online, ha, ha! I started by going to Amazon.com and that is where I found m/m romance books. I’d always liked romance between men, but couldn’t find many good stories like that before the internet and the rise of the m/m romance genre. In 2007, my interest expanded to reviewing m/m romance online. (Through all this, I somehow managed to miss the entire fan-fiction phenomenon.)
Through 2007 and 2008, to my amazement, I witnessed the rise of epublishing and realized that many of these epublishers were seeking gay romance to publish. I was already reviewing gay romance online and was very curious to try writing one. Through 2008, I wrote a gay fantasy novel, which I finished at 124K words, but I knew it wasn’t good enough to publish. In 2009, I tried to improve and write shorter pieces.
In late 2009, I got a revise-and-resubmit letter from Loose Id for what would be my first published novel, a paranormal gay romance, Trinity Trespass. That is what I worked on through spring of 2010, and it was published in August 2010.
So, since I started writing around 2007 (first, writing reviews, and then transitioning to fiction), it was a four-year process to get published. I think that would be considered fast. The m/m genre was experiencing explosive growth and needed all the writers it could get to keep up with demand. So I got very lucky to be in the right time and place. It definitely seemed to happen very quickly!
Kathy: You have published works in the paranormal genre and well, non-paranormal LOL. Did your paranormal books begin as regular novels and morph into the paranormal world? Do you have prefer one genre over another?
Ms. Kovalin: Actually, those two paranormals (Trinity Trespass, Call and Answer) began as paranormals. Paranormals were my first stories to tell because I’d spent most of my life reading science fiction and fantasy. Then I realized that m/m romance readers prefer contemporary romance. That was fine with me. I was curious to see if I could do that.
As for a preference, I like paranormals and contemporaries equally well. The paranormals give me more freedom to work with unusual ideas and situations, but the contemporaries challenge me to be as realistic and three-dimensional as possible, and I enjoy that challenge.
Kathy: Plotter, pantster or a combination of both?
Ms. Kovalin: A plotter! I outline everything, but I try to stay open to sudden good ideas out of the blue.
Kathy: You have also published a few non-fiction writing how to books. What prompted the decision to write them?
Ms. Kovalin: Okay, that was curiosity again. I was curious about self-publishing. I was also curious about writing a nonfiction book because I love nonfiction of all types. Then I heard about the Kindle Direct Publishing program, which had just got started at Amazon. As usual, when I’m curious, I want to get started very fast. I started casting around for a nonfiction topic and then I remembered that I’d written some how-to-write articles to bring traffic to my website. The traffic stats on the articles showed that they were the most popular thing on my website, so I expanded three of them to full-sized books. It was a lot fun doing it. The KDP program is very easy to use. I’d like to do some more books that way soon.
Kathy: What is a typical day like as author Val Kovalin? Do you write every day? How long does it typically take for you to complete a book?
Ms. Kovalin: I try to write every day in the early morning and at night. It takes me about six months, more or less, to complete a book.
Kathy: Where do you come up with your ideas for plots? Real life? Imagination? Or a combination of both?
Ms. Kovalin: Definitely a combination of both. News stories, nonfiction, memories, things like that. Call and Answer grew out of a news story I’d read about an alligator disrupting someone’s back yard barbecue! Fall into the Sun came from me imagining what the movie Brokeback Mountain would mean to two gay men.
Kathy: Can you tell us a little about Fall Into the Sun?
Ms. Kovalin: It started out as a story about two men who were childhood sweethearts, but who almost got swept completely apart by circumstances in life. When they both turn forty years old, they get a second chance to commit to each other. Bobby is the one who comes back to their hometown to win Alejo. One of his persuasive techniques is to take Alejo to a showing of Brokeback Mountain (which was still in theaters in 2006 when the story is set). This is Bobby showing Alejo how their situation mirrors the situation of the characters in Brokeback Mountain. However, in my story, there is a happy ending!
Fall into the Sun is 41,000 words total and alternates between Bobby’s and Alejo’s third-person viewpoints. It also alternates between scenes of the present and scenes set in the past. From the reviews I got, some people liked the past/present thing and others would have preferred a linear story set in one specific year that moves forward, centering on day-to-day interactions between Bobby and Alejo. Those readers who were in that second group might especially enjoy the sequel Reach for the Moon because that’s how it’s written – totally linear with little or no flashbacks.
Kathy: There is an interesting backstory to your next novel starring Bobby Gallegos and Alejo Sandoval, Reach for the Moon. How did you decide to write a sequel/prequel to your original novel?
Ms. Kovalin: Ha, ha! What an especially good question! Okay, I wasn’t thinking any further than a one-time story when I first wrote Fall Into the Sun. And then – OMG! – it turned out that readers liked it far better than anything I’d previously written. In fact, some were indicating in reviews and comments that they would like a sequel, which is immensely flattering.
I have no problem with giving the readers what they want. However, I couldn’t generate a story that picks up right after Fall into the Sun. I just couldn’t bear putting more conflict into the characters’ lives after they’d won their incredibly hard-earned happy ending. But a story with no conflict is not much a story.
So I started thinking about what Bobby and Alejo were like when they were eighteen. They couldn’t be younger than eighteen in the next romance I wrote because the genre-wide taboo against underage sex would mean I couldn’t write sex scenes. And if I wrote an entire novel taking place over weeks or even just days, it would be totally unrealistic for me not to show them having sex. However, I couldn’t make them older than eighteen because Fall Into the Sun has them breaking up after their high school graduation.
I decided to show them on a road trip over winter break between their first and last semesters of their senior year in high school. But, by the time I’d written about 30,000 words, it had occurred to me that many readers wouldn’t want to read it with the realization in mind (from Fall Into the Sun) that Bobby and Alejo would soon break up and spend the next 20 years apart. I mean, I think I’d feel the same way as a reader.
So, in a moment of overwhelming nerdiness, I remembered the Many Worlds Theory from my years of reading science fiction. Essentially, there are infinite universes out there that exist, branching off on timelines of cause and effect from every major decision that we make.
In one universe, Alejo and Bobby have a fight after their graduation and don’t see each other for the next 20 years. This is the timeline/universe of Fall into the Sun, even though there is a happy ending in that book. In ANOTHER universe, they don’t fight and they stay together. Reach for the Moon is written along that timeline, which leads to a parallel universe. They have their road trip, and things change enough for them along the way that they don’t break up.
In this way, Reach for the Moon opens up a universe in which I can write a lot of stories about Alejo and Bobby having a good life together and getting older together. Fall into the Sun becomes a cautionary tale on a dead-end branch of the timeline of what might have been. It’s a very nerdy way to have my cake and eat it, too. If I had planned any of this out, I would have done things differently, but I’m glad I wrote Fall into the Sun first and managed to reach and express that depth of emotion between Bobby and Alejo, which I think is the main thing that the readers respond to.
Kathy: What projects are you currently working on? What can readers look forward to from you in the upcoming year?
Ms. Kovalin: I have a free short story about Bobby and Alejo to be released this Sunday, September 2. It’s titled This is Yours, and it has a page on Goodreads.com (here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15836626-this-is-yours).
Reach for the Moon is the prequel to Fall into the Sun, and features a road trip between Bobby and Alejo at age eighteen during a period of 2 to 3 weeks. It’s about 100,000 words, more than twice as long as Fall into the Sun. It’s also more of an adventure story with humor and not as much angst as Fall into the Sun. Its Goodreads page is here:
After that is a contemporary romance novel titled After You Fall (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13498171-after-you-fall), which is an interracial gay romance between two eighteen year-olds, an African-American kid from a wealthy family and a Latino kid from a poor family who both fall for each other after meeting at a karate school. When both their families kick them out, they need to get jobs and try to scrape by without help, making their own way in life together. Believe me, it’s funnier than it sounds. 😀
After that is another contemporary romance novel with the working title of Looking for a Fight. It’s another interracial gay romance between yet another African-American kid and a Latino kid. These two are a little older, maybe about nineteen or twenty. Both are talented amateur boxers about to turn professional, but only one of them gets a shot at a world title. (I’m a huge fan of boxing so I can’t wait to write this!)
And, believe it or not, I’ve been thinking about two more novels involving Alejo and Bobby on their new timeline. One might involve them helping Bobby’s brother Isidro out of trouble. One might involve them ending up with a son to raise. Or I might combine both those storylines into just one more novel.
Kathy: I definitely vote for more Bobby and Alejo ;). I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you today. Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?
Ms. Kovalin: Thank you, Kathy! I’ve enjoyed answering these very interesting, personalized questions. Thanks so much for giving me an interview on your blog. I’d also like to thank all the readers who have taken a chance on reading my fiction, and most especially to thank those who have written reviews or left ratings. I have to force myself not to respond to reviews with thank-yous, especially on Goodreads, because I want to let the readers have their privacy, but I greatly appreciate all the reviews and ratings on my work. It’s all great feedback.
Kathy: Ms. Kovalin, thank you so much for visiting with us today. Feel free to drop by anytime you happen to be in the neighborhood.
Title: Fall Into the Sun by Val Kovalin
Alejo and Bobby #1
Publisher: V-K Now Books
Genre: M/M, Contemporary, Erotic, Romance
Length: 41,000 words
They should have spent the past 22 years together, but life took some unexpected turns for Bobby Gallegos and Alejo Sandoval. Heartbreak and rejection can harden the hearts of two passionate, stubborn men. One, deeply devout, wanted to attend college. One, who perfected a tough act to deceive his brothers, might have followed his dad to prison. Now, at 40 years old, they maintain a long-distance relationship as sex buddies, who don’t quite trust each other.
Their lives have sharply diverged. One is now divorced with two teenagers, who bring him joy and despair. One has just had a near-death experience on the job. When Bobby returns to Albuquerque, he will use sex, persuasion, and memories of their shared past to try to convince Alejo to take a chance on him and reach for the future together that they were meant to share.
Publisher’s Note: This gay romance novel contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable, including male/male sexual practices.
Read my review of Fall Into the Sun HERE.
Title: This is Yours by Val Kovalin
Alejo and Bobby #1.5
Publisher: V-K Now books
Genre: M/M, Contemporary, Romance, Non-Erotic
Length: 8000 words
lejandro Sandoval + Roberto Gallegos = love forever. Alejo looks back to one night in June 1980, when he and Bobby were fourteen years old. Only days before, they realized their attraction to each other. But now, Alejo’s dad has invited over his buddies to watch the most anticipated boxing match of the year. Anything could happen during the fight. And anything could happen to Alejo and Bobby as they struggle to keep their newfound love secret while soaking up the macho atmosphere of Mr. Sandoval’s Fight Night. It is a night of love and revelations for Alejo and Bobby.
FREE short story, sex scenes: none, approximately 8,000 words.
Title: Reach for the Moon by Val Kovalin
Alejo and Bobby #2
Publisher: V-K Now
Genre: M/M, Romance
Length: 100,000 words
Approximate release date: October 1, 2012. Road trip prequel to Fall Into the Sun. Gorgeous cover art by Jordan Castillo Price. Blurb coming soon. Approximate length is 100,000 words.