Jeff and Will kick off the 100th episode with champagne and a reflection on the podcast milestone as well as the announcement that they are giving away a Dreamspinner Press $100 gift card to celebrate, courtesy of Dreamspinner Press. They also toast their 20th marriage anniversary, which comes up on September 7.

Jeff updates on the progress he’s making boosting his word count using Dragon Dictation for transcriptions.

Will reviews the books Owning It by Devon McCormack and Riley Hart and Off Base by Annabeth Albert. Jeff also discusses K.C. Wells’s Out of the Shadows.

Jeff interviews best-selling author Andrew Grey. They start off talking about Andrew receiving the RWA Centennial Award this year for publishing 100 books as well as his new book, Never Let You Go, which comes out this week. Andrew also talks about how he got started writing, where he gets his ideas and how he keeps up his writing pace.

Remember, you can listen and subscribe to the podcast anytime on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play MusicStitcherPlayerFMYouTube and audio file download.

[h2]Show Notes[/h2]

Here are the things we talk about in this episode:

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[h2]Andrew Grey Interview Transcript[/h2]

Jeff Adams: Andrew Grey is the author of more than 100 books and the Romance Writers of America recently presented him with the Centennial award for this accomplishment. He is the first male, and the first writer of gay romance to receive the award. After 27 years in corporate America, Andrew settled down in Central Pennsylvania with his husband Dominic and his laptop. Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink. He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Welcome Andrew.

Andrew Grey: Hey, it’s great to be here.

Jeff: Congratulations on the Centennial award, that is quite the accomplishment. 100 books… like, I can’t even fathom that right now. So amazing. What does this award mean to you?

Andrew: To me, it means a certain acceptance in the in the broader sort of way, that not only is there a readership that reads a lot of my books and enjoys my books, but it also means that we have a gay romance author that has is joined the RWA Centennial list along with Heather Graham and Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts. It is really fantastic. When I got the award, I took pictures with some other authors. Heather Graham took a picture with me and the award, so two Centennial award winners and the award. When I told Heather about it. It was really fun. I told her about it at RT. She laughed and she said “Well, as long as I’m on top, it’s fine with me.” [I’m] just below her on the list.

Jeff: You actually crossed that one hundred book mark earlier this year. What are you up to now?

Andrew: Well, the hundredth book was officially Setting the Hook which came out in May. That was the 100th book. So there has been another book in June. There’s been another book in July, August, and then Never Let You Go in September. There’s two books in October. There’s Taming the Beast and then Dirk’s Hell and Back and I’m working somewhere out in January, February, at this point, so we’re at about 110. At this point as far as writing one hundred and ten novels. RWA only counts novels.

Jeff: What do they count a novel as? What’s their breakpoint?

Andrew: 40,000 words. Its one hundred works of the length of 40,000 or more. The book has to be published and it has to meet certain financial criteria. You can’t just be putting books up, you actually have to make a certain amount of money on each and every book in order for it to count.

Jeff: Congratulations on that, because we all know how hard it is, you know, to hit financial goals with books these days.

Andrew: Yes each book. Each title has to meet a certain financial threshold.

Jeff: You’ve got a book coming out this week, on September 8th, called Never Let You Go, which is the second in the Forever Yours [series]. Tell us what we’ve got to look forward to in that book.

Andrew: Well, I had so much fun with this book because it’s set in Biglerville, Pennsylvania. We’ve all heard about Hershey with the streetlights that are shaped like kisses, they have streetlights shaped like apples.

Jeff: That’s adorable.

Andrew: It’s orchard country and these books are all about – they start with a basic very basic romance trope.  Never Let You Go, it’s about two men, they’ve known each other since high school. One character left to join the military and then he never did return. He didn’t come home and they thought he was dead, instead he had been taken prisoner and the whole thing is being hushed up by the military. So basically, his love thinks he’s dead, he’s been mourning for a long time. Then he returns and when he returns he’s broken. He’s been a prisoner, he’s been tortured. He can’t walk very well. He comes back to town and he sees the love of his life with another man and a child. He fully believes that he’s moved on, got somebody else, turns and walks away.

Jeff: That’s quite the set up.

Andrew: And that’s just the prologue… and then the story starts.

Jeff: You’re right, that is a very traditional romance there.

Andrew: A lot of the romance tropes, a lot of things like that, don’t work anymore in this day of instant communications, of cell phones, of texting, of everything else. Everybody knows everything about everyone else. Facebook, twitter, social media, all of that.  So, it was very difficult. How do you come up with a situation that it would actually work? When he was in the military, the military controls everything, the military for whatever reason, had decided that they weren’t talking about this, this last mission didn’t happen. And then, of course, I’m not gonna tell you who the other man and the little boy are.

Jeff: Now, looking back to when you started all this, how did you get started in this genre, what got you going?

Andrew: We had moved to Central Pennsylvania. Dominic and I, we have a pool in the backyard and my father’s birthday is right around the 4th of July. So, my father turns 70 and we had a big party for him in the backyard around the pool and everybody at the time told me how much I look like my father. That was 12 years ago and I was 42 years old. I most certainly did not want to look like my seventy-year-old father. So I decided that I needed to look less might like my seventy-year-old father and I went to the gym. I started working out. I started losing weight. What the hell are you going to do with an hour of treadmill time, just stand there and stare at the wall, or the worse, the television? No, so I started reading. For some reason Amazon seemed to figure out that I was gay and recommended a couple gay romances and I bought them. What makes treadmill time go faster than reading sex? Nothing. So I started reading the books and I soon fell in love with them. They had happy endings. When I was your age, and a little bit younger, all the books were… it was the AIDS era, all the books, everybody died. So, I didn’t read gay fiction for a very long time, was too depressing. Then I found the romance and it had happy endings. It was like the sun came out and I started reading them, and then I got this crazy idea to try to write one. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t even tell Dominic until I was half-way through the manuscript because I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out, if it was going to come together. It did. It wasn’t a great book by any means, but I actually completed a 60,000 word manuscript.

Jeff: And that’s excellent because there are so many people who say they want to write a book and never get around to putting pen to paper or fingers on keyboard – and there you had this manuscript.

Andrew: Now I had the manuscript. I did get it published eventually, but it’s not really important, but what is important is I actually did it, and then I did it again, and then I did it again. I wrote three books in six months and I ended up playing with those books for the next six months. I wasn’t really writing. I was figuring out what I wanted to do with the books that I had written. I started looking for publishers, started looking for submissions. It was very hard to let them go. The first book got published, actually the third book I wrote, which was Children of Bacchus, was the first one with Dreamspinner [Press]. I submitted to them and then they took The Best Revenge, which was actually the second book I wrote. Elizabeth [Noble], I met her at an expo in New York and she said, “What’s next?”, I had nothing. I had started a couple of manuscripts. It didn’t work out because I didn’t like them and I sort of got bored with them, figuring that were too formulaic. There was nothing interesting about them. Elizabeth said, “What’s next? I want this one. I want the follow-up to Children of Bacchus” – which turned out to be Thursday’s Child. So I said, “Oh, okay.” I went home and wrote it in about five or six weeks.

Jeff: So you’ve always been a fast writer.

Andrew: Yeah. I wrote that book, then after that the floodgates opened. My brother opened the wine store and out of that came Bottled Up. After that came Love Means No Shame, which I wrote one chapter a day. There are 19 chapters in the book and I wrote a chapter a day, and then the other books just started to come.

Jeff: When you were reading romances on the treadmill, were there any in particular that struck you, that stood out as – I want to write like this. Were there authors that inspired you at the time?

Andrew: J.L. Langley was one that inspired me only because hers were such a fun read. Hers were so much fun and she had a lot going on in those books. Yes, there was the romance but she always had other things going on. There were some twists, there were some turns, there were some things you don’t expect to see coming. She had really interesting characters. I wanted to write like her. I actually took all of her early books and I broke them down into character and into how she had done what she had done. I actually studied the book – so this character has this background, and this is the plot, and this is the plot turn, and this is the bad guy, and this is how he was developed… and all that really helped. I joined an RWA chapter in March 2009. I was the only guy in the chapter. In fact, there have been three men that have visited the chapter and none have stayed. I’m the only guy that’s been in the chapter fervently since 2009. They helped me immensely, but the president of RWA right now is Leslie Kelly and Leslie Kelly lives in my area of the country, and she came to our chapter and spoke about how you develop characters and how they can help develop conflict – heard the material she used and I still use in every single book, after all these books. I made her cry at RWA this year when I told her that, because she changed my writing life. It was one class. It was one hour-long class and she changed my writing life.

Jeff: It’s important to have people like that, every author needs a least one instance of that.

Andrew: Well, you need one person, or one topic, or one session where it really makes the light go on – where something really makes sense. And once that happened, you can build on it.

Jeff: How would you say the writing has evolved over the years?

Andrew: Gotten more complex. Much more complex characters and the conflicts are more complex. I’m able to see stories in places I never would have seen it before.

Jeff: Such as?

Andrew: There was a newspaper article on a man who had been wrongly convicted of murder and how his sister had worked all those years to try to prove he was innocent – that was just a newspaper article – I used that and went from there. There’s a story called Legal Artistry, and it’s based on the same story that the movie The Woman in Gold is based on. I heard the story somewhere and “Oh, that would make a really, really great romance novel!” and off I went. Dominic always sends me great Internet stories. I have a notebook and I bookmark the Internet stories so that I can come back to them when I’m ready for it. I got one right now that, once I finish the book I’m working on… it doesn’t even have a title yet, I keep referring to it as Blazing Saddles meets Footloose.

Jeff: Oh wow, can you tease that one a little bit, because I’m curious how those come together.

Andrew: Both movies have the theme of acceptance, but it’s the Footloose in that the man they need to really overcome is the Rev. father and the love interest is the sheriff.  It’s just how my mind plays with these two things and brings them together and you end up with something interesting and different. I’ve got a Dreamspun story, it’s going to be the Earnest Earl of Ecstasy.

Jeff: That’s a great Dreamspun title.

Andrew: It’s going to have elements of The Importance of Being Earnest, some elements of Oscar Wilde.

Jeff: I guess we’ll see that one sometime in 2018?

Andrew: Yes, all these that I’m working on now are for 2018.

Jeff: What would you say that the trademark of an Andrew Gray book is?

Andrew: Whoo-hoo, that’s a little hard. Well, the first thing is that it has to have a great romance. It’s really gotta have great characters and a great romance. The trademark?  Generally low angst. I generally don’t like to read really angsty books, so I don’t write really angsty books. But I do have a philosophy that a book of mine is going to do three things, it’s gotta make you laugh, gotta make you cry and it’s gotta get you excited.

Jeff: That’s three great things that have, for sure.

Andrew: Those are the three things every book should do… really should have that moment where you laugh through it. I just finished a book called Buried Passions which is for January. The premise is I inherited a cemetery and a hunky groundskeeper so I got to put really great what one-liners in there like “I own dead people”. It’s gotta be interesting, you gotta do something that is different. It’s got to be something that could have a hook to it, but it’s got to be funny, you gotta laugh. You gotta cry a little bit and you gotta have “hot”. Come on, why read an entire book if you’re not gonna have hot sex?

Jeff: With so many books written, is there a subgenre or a trope, along the way, that you want to explore but just haven’t been able to yet?

Andrew: I actually swear that if there isn’t a trope that I really wanted to explore, I’ve done it. I even did a book for a trope that I swore I would never ever do, well actually I did two of them in that trope, Eyes Only For You and Eyes Only For Me use the “gay for you”/“bi for you” trope. But I did it as the character determines that he’s bisexual, learns that he’s not just attracted to women, but he also learns that he’s attracted to men, or at least a particular man. That was my own spin on it because I couldn’t just do the “gay for you” thing, that just didn’t work for me. Ronnie, in the one book, learned that he’s bisexual.

Jeff: I think that works because we talk on the show periodically about how we don’t like “gay for you” In particular, either because it’s just really that you’re bi, you may not have labeled yourself that yet, but that’s what it is.

Andrew: Yes, exactly. And I hate the “gay for you” trope because it cheapens the journey, cheapens the self-discovery that you have to go through to figure out who you are.

Jeff: Totally agree on that.

Andrew: Particularly the earlier ones. The ones that are being done now tend to be more in-depth, but some of the early ones were pretty surface.

Jeff: Now you write, if I did the math right from what you mentioned before, you do about a book a month.

Andrew: 3 to 3 1/2 weeks.

Jeff: 3 to 3 1/2 weeks, so in a year you’re getting 12 to 15 maybe?

Andrew: 16 is what I do. This is an abnormal year because of the adjusting the schedule, but normally it would be 12 Andrews and 4 Dirk books in a year.

Jeff: Does Geoff Laughton play into that anymore?

Andrew: Geoff Laughton is retired. He’s happily riding his horses and managing his farm and sleeping next to Eli. He’s happy he’s not writing anymore.

Jeff: Nice. So, with 16 books, what’s your process look like for the time you start writing a title to the time you get it to where Dreamspinner is ready to publish it?

Andrew: Well the first thing is I actually have to write the book. That’s 3 to 3 1/2 weeks. Then, once I’ve written the book I turn it over to Dominic and I go on to the next book. Dominic then reviews the manuscript. He reviews it for my errors, he cleans up my typos, he cleans up my punctuation, which I’m crap at punctuation. Then I go through, I look at his notes, I make any changes that I feel I need to change, go through, give it to my betas, let them go through it. Meanwhile, I am happily writing the next book. Once all that’s done and I’ve made my final changes, I submit it to Dreamspinner and then it goes through the editorial process.

Jeff: Are you handling what they send back or does Dominic take the pass?

Andrew: I handle the edits that they send back. I do not handle the final text review and I do not handle galleys. Dominic does both of those. Because when they send me the manuscript, I don’t see what’s there, I see what’s supposed to be there. Never was really good at seeing what was there, Dominic is great at it, so he does that final text edit review for me and then he also looks at the galley. And I’m happily writing the next book.

Jeff: Sure. In the time it takes for production to happen, you might have written two books.

Andrew: Or three books.

Jeff: How do you manage your daily process? Do you start with the writing and then deal with edits or does it depend on however you’re feeling that day?

Andrew: The writing always comes first. Edits never get touched until I’ve done my words for the day.

Jeff: What are the words of the day?

Andrew: On a bad day, 3000. I really shoot for 4000 words a day. Which means that there will be some days that I don’t, or I can’t write or that I just need to take a day off. So if I can get 3000 words a day, it’s good. I really want four, but it depends.

Jeff: Do you take weekends off, or are you writing weekends too?

Andrew: Six days a week. But weekends it’s our 3000 word days. 1000 in the morning before noon, 1000 in the afternoon and 1000 in the evening. Write a thousand words… I can read now, or I can take a nap now, or I can watch TV. Then come back in the afternoon to another thousand words, oh I’m tired, I can take a nap now. I earned it.

Jeff: As we were talking about earlier, you’ve always seemed to be fairly fast because even those early books you were getting them done in 5 to 6 weeks. What you think has made you so fast from the get go?

Andrew: I’m goal oriented. I don’t I don’t play around. I don’t meander through a book. I start the book. I start with whatever the first words are and I write until the last words. I don’t generally look back through the manuscript. I don’t generally second-guess myself. I can go back and I can change things in edits, I can change things in review, but I don’t go through and change a whole bunch of stuff and worry about what’s already been written. Once the words are on the page I just keep going, unless I come up with something at the end of this book would be really good. I may do that, but that’s pretty rare.

Jeff: How much of an outline do you tend to start with?

Andrew: All in my head.

Jeff: Is it a fairly good outline in your head, or are you the pantser who just lets it kind of roll?

Andrew: I start with an idea or concept. I know what the beginnings gonna look like. Of course I know what the end is going to look like because it’s a romance, which does make it a little easy. I generally know the one or two major turning points in the book, what is going to precipitate the one or two really major turning points in the book – what is going to make them actually realize that they love each other and then what is gonna be the item that’s going to rip them apart. I know those sorts of things because those are inherent in the characters and the conflict. I know the setting because I have already figured out the setting and sometimes, the crazy thing is, sometimes you never know what’s to come first. I started some books with the setting, it’s what came first.

Jeff: Generally, because you’ve been somewhere that looks good for setting?

Andrew: I’ve got this really great idea for this town on the Eastern shore of Maryland. It’s inhabited by people that are fairytale archetypes, it’s gonna be named St. Giles and the first book is to be Taming the Beast, so it’s going to be a beauty and the beast book and he’s gonna be the beast of St. Giles. We have Taming the Beast coming in October. It’s a contemporary but it’s got the beauty and the beast archetype. The next one in that series is going to have the Cinderella archetype, or the Cindefella archetype. I really love that archetype because that way I get to play with a really dysfunctional family and what kind of dysfunctional person comes out of a dysfunctional family. Let’s face it Cinderella was just too nice and too good for words to come out of that completely dysfunctional family.

Jeff: It will be interesting to see what you do with Cindefella.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s gonna be fun. But I actually did a book with a Cinderella type character and that one was Fire and Hail which just came out last month, July. I love that story because in there he realizes that he’s Cinderella because it’s his stepfather that’s been causing him all the troubles. His partner says, which I absolutely love, I love this exchange, you know in the real stories the birds came down and pecked out the evil stepsister’s eyes. In the Grimm fairy tales. They were grim. He starts running to the computer and says, “Where can I get some damn eye pecking out birds?”

Jeff: You mentioned that Geoff Laughton has retired. What’s going on with Dirk [Greyson] these days?

Andrew: Well, because of this other schedule, Dirk is on hiatus, at least as far as writing goes, he’ll start up after the first year. But we do have Hell and Back, coming in in late October for GRL. I love that book. I love that book because the guy that ends up dead in the backyard is a lawyer. And you know how it is… what you call a thousand lawyers at the at the bottom of the sea… a good start.

Jeff: We apologize to any lawyers who may be listening.

Andrew: Are you kidding? I heard that joke from a lawyer!

Jeff: Where are the lines between what is an Andrew Grey book and what is a Dirk Grayson book?

Andrew: Dirk books are going to be much more suspenseful. There is generally going to be more action and Dirk also does paranormal. Dirk has a paranormal series, The Yellowstone Wolves series. So basically, it’s going to be romantic suspense and paranormal. Before I started Hell and Back, that was on my calendar and I didn’t have an idea for the book. I was on the phone with Elizabeth my publisher and I told her that I’m supposed to start this book in about three days and I don’t have an idea for it. She said that we can just work around that with the schedule. And I said, no, no, no, you don’t seem to understand… I need to kill people… now. Every now and then I just need to kill people. Dirk is there to help me when that happens, because I can actually kill people, in fiction of course, but I can kill people.

Jeff: Now besides all this writing that you do, which we’ve already ascertained is a lot, you’re also in charge of Dreamspinner’s audiobook production. How did you end up taking that on and what does that involve?

Andrew: In 2013, I went to GRL in Atlanta and the evil day job was getting more and more evil by the day. I called Elizabeth when I got home and explained to her what I was looking for/what I wanted. She said, I’ve got the perfect job for you because it requires a lot of coordination, it requires a lot of moving pieces and parts and people to coordinate. She said, I want to start up audiobooks again because I found this out found this process that we could use to do it and I’m looking for somebody to do it… and it was like sign me on. I do it part-time and it’s something that I can do around other things. It involves me coordinating auditions and coordinating with all of the narrators as well as the authors, getting some of them to choose a narrator, then negotiating contracts with the narrators. Making sure that the narrators actually follow up and actually do what they’re supposed to do. Then coordinate with the audiobook reviewers, so that when we do get the audiobook, they listen to it and we catch any errors. Set up payments all of that sort of stuff.

Jeff: How many audiobooks are in production at any one time?

Andrew: At any one time, 30 to 40 are in various stages of production.

Jeff: That’s amazing. It seems that all the Dreamspun Desires go to audio too.

Andrew: Both of the Dreamspun lines go into audiobook.

Jeff: The Beyonds will be coming soon then?

Andrew: The other ones are coming. They’re in production. The first ones are actually very near complete. I have a company that I work with for a number of years they do excellent audiobook production and he now has a stable of 4 to 5 narrators and so they do all of those for us. We work with our authors to choose the narrators, but the Dreamspuns are the ones that the authors don’t choose. They go to a production company and they do all of them for us.

Jeff: That must help streamline that.

Andrew: It streamlines that and I and I’m able to get a better deal. I’m able to get a good enough deal on the production that I can actually do all of the Dreamspun Desires rather than only picking and choosing the ones that do best. By doing it that way I can keep doing the entire line.

Jeff: As an author, what’s it like for you to hear your work done as an audiobook?

Andrew: Oh God no, I don’t want to hear it. Because I’ll hear every mistake, oh God why did I word that sentence that way? I don’t want to listen to my own work so I don’t. Thank goodness I have reviewers who listen to all of these all the audiobooks. I have one review who’s listened to 400. Yeah, she’s done hundreds of audiobooks for me and we’ve even done some of her work in audiobook, but I don’t send it to her. I always send it to somebody else, I never ever have an author listen to their own audiobook. Just my rule, don’t have it done.

Jeff: What’s coming up for you, the rest of this year, after Never Let You Go comes out?

Andrew: Well I’ve got Taming the Beast which is the definite “beauty and the beast”. This is so much fun because the beast is gorgeous, he’s beastly on the inside. Beauty was mauled by a bear as a as a teenager, but he’s gorgeous on the inside. So I definitely twisted them from the inside to the outside. Terri Brisbin, whose beauty and the beast story was Taming the Highlander, hers is set in 13th-century Scotland, she was a guest at our RWA chapter in April. When she came, she stayed with Dominic and I overnight and I got to spend the whole evening talking to her and we just talked and talked and talked and I fell in love with her work. So I read her beauty and the beast book. Oh my God I had just finished it and we spent the evening talking about it. So the book is dedicated to her and she wants a copy when it comes out.

Jeff: That’s awesome.

Andrew: She’s amazing. Then I’ve got Dirk’s Hell and Back, “kill all the lawyers” in November. I have Heart Unheard, which is the follow-up to Heart Unseen. This is a new one for me. I’ve done parts of this before, but the one main character actually goes deaf on page. It’s in an automobile accident with head trauma and at the end of it, when he comes out, when he comes around, he is deaf.

Jeff: Did you have to do a certain amount of research for that, to figure out how to put it on page?

Andrew: Yes, I actually called my audiologist.

Jeff: Did that particular plot slow your writing down at all as you having to think about how to represent…

Andrew: Yes those sorts of stories, in Heart Unseen where one character is blind and Heart Unheard where one is deaf, the process takes more time. It takes a lot more thought. It not as though you can write it on autopilot. You can’t take anything for granted anymore. With a blind character. It’s almost easier to write a blind character because there are other things, it’s not just a simple as closing your eyes and ta-da you’re blind, but there are certain things that you take away. Okay, they can still hear. Therefore, you can still communicate with them. They can still hear, they can still talk, they can hear you talking and they can talk back, so you’re dealing with communication. That’s easy enough. With a deaf character you’ve removed a means of communication. They can no longer hear therefore how do you talk to them, how do you communicate with them? I ended up developing a method of communication that they use to talk back and forth.

Jeff: What’s coming up in December?

Andrew: December, oh that’s Fire and Flint. That’s the Carlisle Cop series, those six books are done. But Fire and Flint is the Carlisle Deputies. It’s a spinoff series, that first book will be in December. So instead of dealing with borough police officers, we’re dealing with County Sheriff and the Sheriff deputies and a judge gone bad. Then in January we have Buried Passions, which is “I inherited a cemetery.”