Welcome, one and all, to another author interview! Today, I’m welcoming Andrew J Peters to the site, who some of you may remember form my previous feature on his Werecat series. This time around though, we’re looking at something very different. So, let’s get to it!
Andrew, welcome to the site! For those that aren’t familiar with you and your work, can you give us a quick intro?
Hey Matt! Thanks so much for inviting me over. 😊
I’ve been writing gay fiction primarily in the fantasy realm for about ten years.
I’m probably best known for my Werecat books, an action-adventure series, and I’ve written a number of books for young adults and older readers based on ancient world and mythological themes. While all of that has been pretty serious in tone, I also love writing humor, so my recent release is more modern and comedic. I had a lot of fun with that.
Beyond my writing, I’ve been a social worker for (gulp) twenty+ years, and a good part of my career has been dedicated to services and advocacy for LGBTQ+ youth.
We’re mostly going to be talking about your latest novel Irresistible today. The tagline for the book is ‘What if the gods created a man so beautiful, he was irresistible to anyone?’ I really liked that. Did it come to you before, during or after the completion of the book?
I wrote the tagline after writing the book, pretty deep into the production schedule actually. I’d been over the manuscript many times by then, and I think that was a good point to work on taglines and finetune the synopsis. I had a better perspective on the final product so to speak and how to distill it to one line. I’m glad you like it!
The book follows the romance between Brendan Thackeray-Prentiss, a NYC bachelor who’s sworn off men after walking in on his boyfriend with an older woman, and Callisthenes Panagopoulos, and incredibly handsome man with a jealous ex-boyfriend. Which character came to you first, and how do the two leads differ from a personality standpoint?
This is a good time to mention that Irresistible is a retelling of a pretty wacky and obscure ancient Greek novel called Callirhoe. I only discovered the book three years ago, and I think because it was excavated much later than works by Homer and Hesiod for instance, and scholars didn’t know what to do with it, the novel hasn’t achieved much notoriety.
Briefly, it’s about a young woman of unparalleled beauty who falls in love with a handsome prince, and she gets stolen away by a series of men through really absurd circumstances. For example, her kidnappers get spooked because she’s so beautiful, she must a favorite of the gods, and they dump her at the nearest port where a widower quickly buys her as a slave and marries her. Later, a judge must decide who can claim Callirhoe as his wife, and he falls in love with her on sight and schemes to steal her for himself. Meanwhile, her true love overcomes slavers, crosses oceans, and even ends up fighting for a foreign army while trying to find her.
To me it read as part Harlequin romance and part Monty Python skit. I guess I’d also throw in Shakespearean comedy. It’s an epic comedy of errors, and what’s intriguing is it was so far ahead of its time, written in the first century, and probably, though we’ll never know for sure, the author Chariton of Aphrodisias seems to have been completely earnest about it being a serious love story. It got me thinking about the possibilities of bringing the over-the-top story into the 21st century, flipped around as a gay romance, and once I got started, I couldn’t stop myself.
To get back to your question, Cal came to me first since that was the starting place in re-envisioning Callirhoe. It made me think about what a totally irresistible, gay man would look like in the world today, and I didn’t want to take the obvious teen idol, pop star, or gym rat-clone route. I went with more of an adorable nerd whose good looks and friendly personality have people falling over each other to get in his orbit, from little things like giving up their seat on crowded trains and making way for him wherever he goes drinks to following him around in hopes of getting a date. It felt right he’d be clueless about all of the attention he stirs up. He’s a sweet guy who’s rather naive.
I had a reference point for Brendan as well since Callirhoe’s true love is a catch in his own right. His character came to me in a bit more of a conventional form. He’s a trust fund brat who is unlucky in love, and I wanted to give him some personality so he’s also this over-educated, somewhat neurotic guy with way too much time on his hands, and he’s looking for a way to ground himself that doesn’t follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. Both guys were a lot of fun to write.
One thing that I think sounds great with this book is that the blurb mentions the story taking on not only Cal’s jealous ex, but Romanian mobsters, hermit widowers, and a dictatorship on the brink of revolution. This turns a dream wedding in the Greek isles into a madcap odyssey. Now, the book is listed is being satirical. But how is it balanced in terms of humour and romance? Is it about 50/50, or does one take more of the focus?
I’ve found so far while the book has made the rounds through the romance world, strictly MM HEA readers are not as enchanted by the story as those who like humor. I mean, the reader has to buy into the premise that Cal’s so good-looking, he has everyone around him reconsidering their life choices, giving up everything to be his boyfriend. That’s a comic theme I really loved from the movie There’s Something About Mary because it’s just zany and absurd, and again, reminiscent of Shakespeare comedies like A Midsummer Nights Dream where there are magical elements at play.
I do think there’s a sweet romance within the story that readers will enjoy rooting on, so let’s say it’s 60/40 in terms of the humor/romance ratio.
Humour is actually quite a versatile tool, insofar as it being able to slot in comfortably among plenty of other genres, from romance to horror. Do you think that humour is an important component in books, and do you find yourself fitting it into your stories quite regularly?
I do like humor as a reader though Irresistible is my first foray into romantic comedy. My previous work, all fantasy related, has been atmospheric with serious themes, so it’s been a matter of tone. More action and high drama versus mishaps and light comedy. I guess you’d say I’m still experimenting with styles as a writer, and I will say it was easier writing a modern comedy versus the sort of ancient-world inspired stories I’ve been known for.
If you could describe the sort of person that the book is perfect for, who would it be?
If you like over-the-top rom-coms, the book is probably perfect for you. I mentioned There’s Something About Mary. Some of my early readers also said the humor reminded them of The Big Bang Theory. It’s definitely spoofy with a lot of parodied character types from the super-cute gay guy who doesn’t realize people are being nice to him to get into his pants to a cast of colorful, ‘blue blood’ characters on Brendan’s side.
You also previously released The City of Seven Gods. First things first, this actually won the 2017 Silver Falchion Award for Best Adult Horror and Fantasy, and was a finalist in 2016 Foreword INDIES for Best Book of the Year. Congratulations! How did it feel to get these accolades?
Thanks! That was for sure a highlight of my career. The Silver Falchion was given at an awards ceremony so you can bet being called up to a podium while a live band played and the whole thing was recorded was pretty special.
Irresistible was released by NineStar Press. How did you come to place it with this publisher?
I started with a conventional approach to getting the book published, and I actually had an agent for a while. Ultimately, we couldn’t get an editor at one of the big houses willing to take a chance on it.
So I approached NineStar on my own after doing some research. What I really liked was the diversity of their titles and their interest in LGBTQ+ authors particularly. NineStar publishes some traditional romance titles, but they also publish and are really enthusiastic about LGBTQ+ stories that blend genres whether with comedy, action-adventure, or fantasy, etc.. They seemed like the perfect place for Irresistible, which I saw as a title that wouldn’t do so well in the traditional romance market. Lucky for me it worked out. 😊
In terms of writing in general, what is the best advice you can give to new authors trying to get a foothold in the business? Also, what is the hardest part of the writing journey for you?
I received a lot of good advice when I was starting out, and I’m happy to pass it along.
Not so original, but still darn important: perseverance is key both in terms of improving one’s writing and getting it published. Another piece of advice I got from an established author was to get your work out there no matter how small the opportunity might seem. A short story in a non-paying journal. Writing articles about your interests for blogs. I’m not saying writers should always give their work away for free, but one opportunity can lead to two or three others, and it’s so important to make those connections and get your name out there in the industry.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for stopping by. Did you have any final messages for readers? Where can they go to find out more about you? Feel free to link to anywhere you want.
Thanks Matt. I had a blast!
Sure, I’m pretty active on Facebook (https://facebook.com/andrewjpeterswrites) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ayjayp). Folks can also find out more about my work at http://andrewjpeterswrites.com and Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6908025.Andrew_J_Peters)