Candy Miller from Interlude Press talks with Jeff about The Tiny Book Fest, which takes place on Sunday, April 19 and Sunday, April 26 with several panels designed to bring authors and readers together to celebrate books in a virtual environment.
Alice Archer discusses her new novel, The Infinite Onion. She has details on what prompted her to write the story of Grant and Oliver and where the title comes from. She also chats about her other books, Repeating History and Executive Decision, as well as telling the story of how she got started writing.
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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.
- The Hockey Allies Bachelor Bid Romances by RJ Scott, V.L. Locey, Jeff Adams, Susan Scott Shelley and Chantal Mer on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Book Club March 2020: “Arctic Heat” by Annabeth Albert on BGFP
- LOL: Laugh Out Loud by Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox on Amazon
- 400. A Four Podcast Crossover with Mayhem and Jokes on SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com
- The Tiny Book Fest
- The Tiny Book Fest schedule at Interlude Press
- Interlude Press on Facebook
- Short Stuff Anthology on Amazon
- Julia Ember on Amazon
- Kate Fierro on Amazon
- Jude Sierra on Amazon
- Tom Wilinsky on Amazon
- Jen Sternick on Amazon
- Julian Winters on Amazon
- LGBTQ Reads website
- Dahila Adler on Amazon
- Kevin Craig on Amazon
- Laury A. Egan on Amazon
- Lilah Suzanne on Amazon
- Alysia Constantine on Amazon
- Suzey Ingold on Amazon
- Carrie Pack on Amazon
- Amy Stilgenbauer on Amazon
- Laura Stone on Amazon
- Claire Rudy Foster on Amazon
- C.B. Lee on Amazon
- Mallory Cohen (malararyofsunshine) website
- Kate Hazel Hall on Amazon
- F.T. Lukens on Amazon
- Alice Archer Interview
- Alice Archer: website | Newsletter Signup | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- The Infinite Onion by Alice Archer on Amazon
- Shakespeare Retold on Amazon Prime Video
- Wire in the Blood on Amazon Prime Video
- Everyday History by Alice Archer on Amazon
- Executive Decision by Alice Archer on Amazon
- “Reasons for Writing M/M” on AliceArcher.com
- “Trading Push for Pull: What I Learned About Vacation” by Grace Kerina on SensitiveEvolution.com
- “Love and Power” by Hara Estroff Marano on Psychology Today website
- Lauren Beukes on Amazon
- Maurice by E.M. Forster on Amazon
- Maurice on Amazon Prime Video
- Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx on Amazon
- Brokeback Mountain on Amazon Prime Video
- Hot Target by Suzanne Brockmann on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Interview Transcript – Candy Miller on The Tiny Book Festival
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Candy, thanks so much for coming by the podcast. It’s good to have you back on. It’s been awhile. Wanted to have you come on because we absolutely love the event you’re putting on over the next two weekends called The Tiny Book Fest. Where did this come from and tell us all about it?
Candy: Oh, well, I mean, it is a tiny book fest because we are a tiny company, but you know, this was going to be a, it always is a big season for a springtime for any publisher. I mean, this is, this is the book convention and festival season. It’s when you do a big push, not only for your summer titles, but also your fall titles.
And we were all in. I mean, we do the LA Times Festival of Books. We’d been doing Book Con for several years, and YALLWEST, we’ve been to ALA every year. And this year we were adding BEA to it. We were active participants. We were all in for promotions, and then like everyone else, the rug got pulled out from under our feet.
And you know, it left an industry scrambling. Everyone from small three person companies like Interlude Press to big vibe. Having to reinvent promotions and evaluate their schedules to figure out whether they could even get books printed or distributed in time for their release dates. And the answer to that sometimes is, unfortunately, no, they could not.
And no, we could not, because we had to postpone a couple. So we said, well, what can we do? We’re locked down in our homes. And obviously a lot of us are turning to to Zoom and Facebook Live and what have you right now. And we said, well, let’s create our own little book festival. And that’s a way so that not just being online and talking about books, but trying to create an environment that to, as best as we can, recreate that face to face connection that authors have with readers at book con. And that’s something that authors really value.
So we’ll be out there on April 19th and 26th on consecutive Sundays with a series of panels and conversations. We’re going to have giveaways. We’ll give away books, some signed editions. We’re getting some gift cards from independent bookstores across the country. And, we’re going to do a lot of prizes and raffles and whatnot, and hopefully we’re also going to clear out some swag for people too. Random stuff, presenting to people. Hopefully they enjoy it. But there will be books and also sales and a series of panels that we think are going to be a lot of fun.
Jeff: Yeah, I’ve looked at the lineup. It looks outstanding. Tell folks what we’ve got to look forward to here.
Candy: Well, on our first day, Sunday the 19th we’re going to start with a bunch of YA authors from our anthology that’s coming up called “Short Stuff” and the panel’s called “Fluff Yeah!”
Jeff: A great title.
Candy: The point of it is that sometimes fluff doesn’t, you know, have a great reputation. I mean, come on of all times in particular. I mean, right now there is great value in feel good fiction. And so the authors that include Julia, Ember, Jude Sierra. We’ve got Tom Willnsky and Jen Sternick, who wrote “Snowsisters,” and Kate Fierro, who’s one of our early authors from 2015 who’s come back and written a short story for this anthology. They’re going to be talking with Alysia Constantine about the value of feel good fiction. I think that’s gonna be a great panel.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s going to be good. Cause you’re right, in this day and age, we all need a little fluff fiction.
Candy: I go in search of feel good movies right now. and I. I will just turn off the news cause I don’t need the count.
What I need is “Bull Durham” and what, is, you know, Nora Ephron film “When Harry Met Sally” or something because I mean, those films just kind of take you away to that spot and I think we all need that right now.
Let’s see, what else on the the 19th, we’ll have, Dahlia Adler will be joining us in conversation with Julian Winters who has a book coming up, called “The Summer of Everything.”
Jeff: This is big on my summer reading list right here.
Candy: Oh yeah. A lot of people summer reading list, which is great. And please keep it there. Preorder it, please. And we know people are, it is truly a feel good book. if you think of the films like “Empire Records,” “High Fidelity,” it’s that sort of vibe.
It’s YA. A kid who’s out of high school getting ready to transition to college and suddenly adulting just comes crashing in on him in ways that he’s not quite sure he’s ready for. And it’s written in a way that only Julian can write a book. It is a lot of fun. And so he and Dahlia will be talking about that and YA fiction and probably lots of other things.
We’ll do a little, a little behind the scenes at Interloop press. Just a few minutes, you know, Q and A, if anyone wants to ask about, you know. What do you do to submit? How do you write a book? Are you still in business? Yes, we are. Any anything anyone wants to ask we’ll be there for a few minutes doing that.
And then, our final panel is called Location, Location, Location. And it’s a collection of authors who have taken setting and you know, sometimes you get a book and the setting is almost as much a character in the book as the characters themselves. And that’s authors Kevin Craig, who’s got an upcoming book called “The Camino Club,” which is set in Spain. And it’s, a sort of a, a pilgrimage book, a “Breakfast Club” if they had to do a massive hike across the country, and it’s very good. also author Laury Egan, whose book “The Ungodly Hours” set in Greece. It’s a murder mystery, suspense thriller about a serial killer. That book’s out already.
Lilah Suzanne, who’s “Tack and Jibe” unfortunately we did have to push that release back. It was supposed to be out in April. It’ll now be out in July. Lilah is our own resident nora Ephron and their books are just joy, and this is no exception. It’s set in the world of competitive sailing. And as a former competitive sailor, I’ve got to tell you. Lilah knocked it out of the park. It was terrific. And then also Julian will be joining us on that panel as well, because his new book is set in Santa Monica and it’s that sunshiny vibe is part of the book.
So that’s our first day. This is why we spread it over two days. We actually created a whole mini-festival over two weekends.
Jeff: Yes, you did.
Candy: Our second weekend, we get to welcome Jeff Adams as a moderator. Thank you. For a session about writing historical fiction. I won’t do it. It’s too challenging and too much work for me.
Some authors who are very good at it and have a good sense of how do you research something that, occurred in a time when you weren’t even alive. And how do you do that when you’re not able to go to a library, when you have to do everything online like we are right now. And, that includes authors Laura Stone, who’s “Bitter Springs” is about cowboys. A true Western that’s a reflection of the true diversity of the West and the development of the West through cowboys. Amy Stillgenbauer, who wrote. “Sideshow,” which was set in the 1940s the traveling circus.
Carrie Pack, whose “Grrrls on the Side” is sort of a modern historical because it was set in the 90s about the riot girls and Alysia Constantine, who has written a couple of historicals and has an upcoming book called “LuckMonkey,” which is set in the 80s punk movement in Pittsburgh. Alysia is a fantastic writer and a mind that works in ways that I wish I could figure it out because, her work is complex and entertaining and takes you to another place, and that really ties into the historical, fiction vibe as well.
Jeff: It’s going to be an interesting discussion since it’s usually, I think people go immediately to Regency with that and yeah, it’s eighties and it’s seventies and it’s nineties and it’s all that music that they now classify as oldies on the radio.
Candy: It’s true. I mean, yes, Regency is historical, but the eighties and nineties are now considered historical as well in a different mode. Certainly. I mean, some of us were there for it, but you know, we’re now talking 20, 30, 40 years ago in some cases. And, it was a different world then.
So yes, those are historicals as well. So I think that’s really interesting to kind of dive deep into, what is a historical book that’s set within your lifetime.
We’re also going to have a reading that day from Claire Rudy Foster, who wrote “Shine of the Ever,” Foster does a great reading. I saw them read here in Los Angeles, and that book is a stunner. So that’s going to really, I liked that we’re able to extend the audience, via the internet.
And then we’re going to have C.B. Lee in conversation with Mallory Cohen, a Booktuber known as Mallorayofsunshine, and they’re going to talk about where the “Sidekick Squad” is going to be going.
Now that we’re getting ready for the final book, which will be coming soon. and CB said that they’re ready and to talk about how this ends. So I think that’s going to be a lot of fun as well.
And then we convinced our art director, the wonderful, C.B. Messer to be in conversation with Julian Winters and to talk about what we call Cover Up: The Art of Cover Illustration.
Jeff: It’s going to be fun cause man, CB does some amazing work.
Candy: She is ridiculously talented and, always wanted to sort of come on, we want to get you on a panel or put you at a conference and it’s never quite worked out so we’re really excited that she’s gonna. talk about cover art.
Then finally we will, our final session on Sunday, the 26th are a collection of YA authors who write science fiction and fantasy. We’re calling it, YA in Spaaaaace!!
Jeff: NIce call back to “The Muppet Show” there.
Candy: Absolutely. Thank you for getting that. I love that show. And that’s going to be Julia Ember, C.B. Lee. F.T. Lukens, who wrote two sets of books a trilogy. “The Broken Moon Trilogy,” which is a space opera and kind of a roller coaster ride pays to it as well as the fantasy comedy, “The Rules and Regulations of Mediating Myths and Magic” and “Monster of the Week,” It’s it’s second book. so you know, a contrast in styles there.
And then a new author to us, who’s debut is scheduled to come out in November, Kate Hazel Hall, who has a stunning book called “From Darkness,” which is, kind of genre blending as well as genre bending. It’s YA, urban fantasy, literary fiction. Incredible book. We’re so excited to be publishing it and we feel like we stole it out from under a big five publishers,
They’re going to be in conversation with Alex Brown from Tor.com. So that one will be a whole lot of fun. and we’re, you know, we’ve got some authors on there who are getting ready to bridge over to big five, novels now. So it’s really exciting to see them at this stage of their careers. We’re cheering them on from the sidelines and a little weepy too. We’d love to keep working with them, but we understand that that’s where we fit in the world. And, you know, hopefully we’re helping authors move along in their careers and giving them a really strong foundation for it.
And that’s kind of part of what we’re all about.
Jeff: Excellent. So this is Sunday, April 19th and Sunday, April 26 it starts at one Eastern on the 19th and noon Eastern on the 26th. And runs throughout the day. how can people find this? Where do they need to go? What do they need to do?
Candy: Okay. It will be online. it will be broadcast via Zoom and we’re going to have more information about how to log into it, coming very, very soon. We’ll also be simulcasting it to Facebook Live and if I make the technology work over to YouTube as well, definitely Facebook live.
The cool thing about using Zoom, of course, we’re seeing it everywhere right now. We’re doing this as a Zoom webinar. And the idea is, like I said, to, to bring authors and readers face to face, this is as much about the readers as it is about the authors and the books. We just want to recreate that environment.
So by having a webinar. If people want to, they can obviously send text questions for Q and A, but they can also be on camera and literally talking face to face with the author during the session if they want to have a conversation with them, they can do it. That’s awesome.
Jeff: And these will live on, on your Facebook page for people who maybe can’t attend live?
Candy: Yes, I hope so.
Jeff: Technology allowing.
Candy: Technology allowing, yes, it will. Zoom is pretty easy and we’re playing with it every day to make sure we’ve got this down and hopefully we won’t have any technical glitches.
Jeff: That’s awesome. And thank you so much for having us be a part of it too. We are so excited to participate with you on this.
Candy: So delighted to do that. Really, really happy. You can be a part of it. And I just think that, this is a lovely way to make sure that authors are still connecting with readers. like I said, we’re going to do giveaways. We also want to promote independent bookstores. And so we’re going to go buy a bunch of indie bookstore gift cards, and we’re going to be giving those away to people during the course of both days. So not only can you get some books, but you can support. Indie publishing at the same time.
Jeff: Yeah, indie publishers and indie bookstores all need the help right now, candy, thank you so much for coming and telling us all about this. I will definitely see you at these events and hope a lot of our listeners take some time to come check everything out as well.
Candy: Thanks for having me. This has been fun.
Interview Transcript – Alice Archer
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Alice, welcome to the podcast. It is so great to have you here.
Alice: Thank you. It’s so great to be here. Thank you for having me. It’s our
Jeff: pleasure. At the end of March, you released your latest book called “The Infinite Onion.” Tell us all about the story of Grant and Oliver.
Alice: Well, Grant is a big surly question mark.
Jeff: That’s a great description. I love it already.
Alice: He doesn’t know what the heck is going on with his life, and sadly, he sort of doesn’t care. Oliver, the other main character, he hasn’t questioned anything in years. So there’s a crash that’s about to happen between these two. Grant has been heading toward homelessness for awhile.
He loses his job due to an uncharacteristic foray into being creative, which turns him off on creativity in general. And that’s his perspective therefore, he also loses his crap motel room, and that sends him looking for somewhere to stash himself while he figures out what to do next. He squats on his ex-brother-in-law’s property until he gets kicked off of there. And so he’s in a state of, you know, full belligerent survival mode.
All of his familiar though shoddy structures are fallen by the wayside recently. Then he meets a man who has everything, a great home, a cushy life, friends, and he’s an artist. He’s creative. This is not at first glance, a match made in heaven. So, that artist, his name is Oliver, and he’s an eccentric, he’s been living on autopilot for quite some time, so he’s got issues of his own, as we like in a romance but they’re buried so deep, he hasn’t questioned anything in awhile.
Suddenly , there’s this angry fellow stomping around his property, just trying to get his life from being, you know… Grant feels like he’s going to fall off a cliff at any second and just die, like literally die.
He’s that much in survival mode and all Oliver is having fun with him. It doesn’t feel good and they don’t like each other, which was what I set out to do as a challenge to myself. A writerly challenge to write two characters who don’t like each other. I think of it as a tale of two shrews.
There’s a n amazing, brilliant BBC, mini series called,” Shakespeare Retold” I highly recommend, “The Taming of the Shrew,” which, I read somewhere that someone described that miniseries as being a tale of two shrews, which that’s it’s a modern retelling.
And so that modern take on Shakespeare is the “Taming of the Shrew” really appeals to me. It’s more egalitarian and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s Shirley Henderson and Rufus Sewell. I can watch it every day. It’s fantastic. But, so I didn’t base “The Infinite Onion” on Shakespeare’s story at all, but it is the taming of the two shrews, they tame each other.
Jeff: How many tropes would you say are at play here? Because I certainly hear what might be an enemies to lovers. Just off the top.
Alice: Enemies to lovers. There is, yeah, I do like trope mixing. Well, actually another one is, the hurt/comfort trope because Grant is really hurting and Oliver has to make some decisions about whether he will be the one to comfort or not.
Jeff: And one of the things I find interesting that you’ve done here is, part of the problem is the creative kind of blow-up that one of them had, but yet the other, the artist who’s creative all the time, and it’s just that extra level of opposites that are in play there.
Alice: It took a lot of drafts to land on how that could work in a way that felt less contrived than other ways. And in the first scene of the book, actually, Grant, before he’s lost his job, he’s on his own sort of… barely out of homelessness, autopilot. He doesn’t have enough money to buy the breakfast that smells good at the gas station grocery store.
So he buys a little Zodiac scroll and it tells him if he wants to keep his job, he better get creative. He gets creative and he loses his job. His stance early in the story is that he’s just angry and he doesn’t know what to be angry at. I mean, ultimately partway through, he figures out that one thing he can be angry at is himself for giving up on himself. But it’s way too early for that in the early part.
Jeff: Given all the elements you’ve got here and looking at issues like homelessness, was there a lot of research that went into this, or did you end up and write and then fill in some of that material? How did that work for you?
Alice: Yeah, each, every book is different. And I have a small data pool.
It’s only my second novel. I made some interesting decisions early on in this one, so I don’t have a usual, but for this novel, the research that I did happened in the mid drafts, I think I did nine drafts of this novel and in the middle of drafts I was trying to nail down anything that a reader might be taken out of the book by, you know, anything the reader might think is a little unrealistic for the story world. Like, I looked up things like, what’s the legal age that a child has to stay in a car seat until you know how long, that sort of thing. Because I’m not a parent and I didn’t know and I didn’t want to put a child out of a car seat and then have an angry parent write to me and say, what are you thinking here?
That’s always my goal when I’m writing or when I’m editing, is to remove all impediments to the reader leaving the story. Like my goal is a one sitting read because there’s nowhere to exit. Keep the pages moving. And so the research that I did was more on that level, but not on the general topics.
The book I’m writing now is completely different than that. I’ve been reading book after book after book and just stuffing my head with all of this stuff, knowing that it will coalesce at some point, but through this book, no, I didn’t do that.
Jeff: Where did the title come from? I really like it.
Alice: Oh, thank you.
I’ve been developing this book for years now and I had at different points, different people in the industry, who I shared about it with, tell me in no uncertain terms that that would never work. It’s too weird. It’s not something that the genre will support.
You’re gonna instantly call out the book as too literary, but I have a very strong intuitive link with stories and my writing. And there was just no other title that would do. So I took a chance and at this point, I’m glad I did.
Jeff: How does it tie to the story?
Alice: You know, I could be embarrassed about this part, but I think I’ll choose not to. I keep fairly meticulous notes about story development because I’m a journalist at heart, ultimately have boxes and boxes of spiral notebooks. I was able to look up exactly what the catalyst was for this title.
If I may, I’ll quote this excerpt from one of my novel notes to myself in 2017. “While writing out a conversation with Grant, I remembered an old note about a story seed I referred to as the infinite onion and the gifted peeler. I thought of it because this current novel suddenly seems to want to be about that idea.”
And the old note that I referred to there was from October 28. I’m talking about a het romance, and it said the gifted peeler and the infinite onion is a great combo with the gifted peeler derived from Robson Green’s Tony Hill character and the British TV series “Wire in the Blood.”
It’s a bit gory for my taste, but, I loved watching it because of this infinite onion and gifted peeler dynamic I was captivated by it. And then the infinite onion is a woman’s so multifaceted and richly layered and infinitely fascinating that he’s captivated in a longterm way. Like she gives him more and more and more to peel, and she’s thrilled to know someone who’s not put off or scared off or daunted by or freaked out by the breadth of her personality.
Having the story revolve around that type of unpeeling suddenly made a lot of Grant and Oliver’s story elements click into place. For me, it became like a unifying theme.
Jeff: That’s very cool how that kind of story note just connects all the dots for you. All of a sudden.
Alice: It did.
And then the final note back in 2017 was, “the question is, which of the main characters is the onion and which is the peeler?” And as I wrote the story, the answer turned out to be that both were both. That’s the taming of two shrews aspect.
Jeff: How did this story come into your head? Was there a particular, something you saw that brought the story to mind, or did it just fall in to place over time or what was the inspiration?
Alice: Yeah, it was a practical issue at first, my first novel “Everyday History.” I wanted to try something different. You know, sort of test my wings more as a novelist maybe. And in “Everyday History,” the two main characters, they never don’t like each other. And they’re often not in the same place. I think they’re together, you know, a very few number of hours throughout the whole book.
That was actually the seed for “The Infinite Onion,” so to speak. I wanted to write a story in which the two main characters didn’t like each other and were around each other often. I don’t know off the top of my head why Vashon Island. I think it probably appealed to me to set it on an Island because of this enforced proximity.
And then Oliver’s home and environs became, you know, a smaller enforced proximity, as they become more dependent on each other through the story. But I also a lot of factors. I mean, this is a great question because there are a lot of factors that come into it. I also write to explore issues that are up for me in my own life.
In this case, the idea of being homeless as a counterpoint to having lived in a home place for a lifetime as the two characters are. And I’ve lived in more than 80 places, so I will never experience a relationship with living in one home, even one town. And what, you know, what would that be like?
What would be the upsides and the downsides and the things I took for granted? I was curious about that. And I think, let’s see, at that time, I had just returned from a fairly fraught situation in Germany where I’d lived for a few years. And then I’ve lived in Canada for, I don’t know, 12 or 13 years before that, and it’s coming back to the U.S. for the first time, which was where I was born.
And so that was home. But you know, after all of that moving around, home was a sort of nebulous and hard to pin down feeling. Even I wanted to look at it more. So I created situations where I could do that. I was looking at the question of where do I belong. You know, and what happens if home becomes a conglomerate of qualities found in different locations and cultures?
You know, the best toothpaste is here and you know, the best, you know, I felt safest in Germany because they have these wooden blinds that go down on the windows and there are no huge natural disasters. There was the nuclear power plant across the border and France. That was the biggest thing, and then something about the stability of the German culture just really settled me. But I can’t, you know, I don’t have English there. And so each country in each place has these huge things that I absolutely love and is missing things that I absolutely love somewhere else. And so home was very up for me.
I’m not saying that I explored those exact issues in the story, but a lot of the story has to do with home and homelessness and finding home and belonging.
Jeff: You mentioned the long span of time you worked on the book and nine drafts. How much time are we talking about there to get this into ready to publish state?
Alice: Three years, but the last two of those were while I was working a super full time job, I would get up at six or seven and work until nine every single day. Like I think for two years in a row I did every single day. Just plugging away at it.
Jeff: Congratulations on finally getting it out into the world. That’s awesome.
You made mention of “Everyday History,” your first novel. For those who may not be familiar with that, tell us a little bit about that book.
Alice: It was a similar exploration of themes that were up for me at the time. I wrote it while I was in Germany. in 2014, I guess.
That took a while too, I was in a long relationship that was past its expiring date. And I made the very tough decision to go, for both of our sakes, you know, to save the friendship basically. I was really craving acceptance for who I was. An internal acceptance of my true deep self, and I wasn’t finding it.
I thought maybe I could write it. I could write to connect with myself if I wrote a story that would help me. And so I started this story that turned out to be “Everyday History” that I wrote to heal. And I did. Henry, one of the two main characters., he’s a museum curator who loves his work and his life.
He’s respected and accomplished but lonely. And Ruben is a former high school student of Henry’s, who’s got a crush on him, his first crush on a man. They do a dance of growing on their own, while they try and imagine being together. I used a lot of different tools. Not because I was trying to be, you know, cute or something like, there are interviews and emails and stuff like that, but because I write super viscerally, I almost bypass my brain in a way.
That was how they needed it to be told. I’m not saying the characters are the boss, but I consider my job as I’m writing as ‘truing’, is this the true story? And I get it wrong. And that’s why I revise.
And then “Executive Decision” is, it’s a longest short story, which I published as a separate book and I give it away as a bonus for joining my reader newsletter list. It’s an alternate universe setting that gave me the freedom to zero in on and focus on the main themes of career and choices around careers, and livelihood that I wanted to explore without, you know, having to it to be longer story.
That character is a man named Dar. He builds stone walls and he’s an expert at it, but he’s gotten into a tight situation with his contract and in this alternate world, that could mean some enforced action with dire results, even death potentially. But then he meets Pierre, the owner and CEO of a trans world transportation empire.
So one character struggles for empowerment in his career and the other character struggles for a life outside his career, and it’s a romance with a happy ending. So they help each other figure it out.
Jeff: We’ll definitely put a link in the show notes to your email list to the people who can sign up and get that as well.
What got you started on this fiction writing path? You mentioned you’re a journalist, but of course being a journalist and being a fiction writer are two different things.
Alice: They are, yeah. I think honestly, the fiction writing desire was always there in the background, but I had to dismantle over decades the.
I guess the best way I can think of them as the should structures that kept me from believing it was okay to prioritize what I most wanted to do rather than pushing it aside for later/never. But all the writing I had done before I started trying to write fiction or novels, especially, I can feel myself relying on that as I write the novels. So, I mean, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing something. There’s this black and white photo of me at about age three in my white nightgown and my bare feet, and I’m standing at an overturn laundry basket with the pencil poised to write over this sheet of paper.
And I’ve looked up from my work, to send the photographer, who was undoubtedly my mom or dad, a look that clearly says, well, what do you want? Can’t you see? I’m busy here.
Jeff: Sounds like it could have also been your very first author headshot.
Alice: Absolutely. Yeah. And so over the decades I’ve written, you know, stories and poetry and creative nonfiction, some of which was published, and the first draft of the het romance, which honestly, I only finished because I had contracted with myself that if I wrote through to the end, I would buy myself all three extended play “Lord of the Rings” DVDs, and I really wanted them. So I wrote through to the end.
Jeff: Was a powerful self contract you had there.
Alice: So yeah.
Jeff: And you’ve, you’ve got a section on your website as to why you write m/m romance. Can you tell us what was the catalyst that got you started there?
Alice: Yeah, it’s a mystery. It’s an interesting thing and I find the trend, and especially the, you know, the number of women writing.m/m romance. I find it utterly fascinating. Do you, what’s your take on it?
Jeff: Yes and no in that, it’s romance and romance has historically, for better or worse, been something that women read. So to me it makes a lot of sense that trajectory continues, but of course there’s been a lot of discussion too on why it resonates so much, and I’ve read through some of that materials, like, yeah, everything I see there makes since everything from, I like romance, so I’m just gonna keep reading romance regardless of what the pairing is to that there’s a little something to it if there’s not a woman in the story, cause then she’s not projecting herself into it because it is two men.
Alice: Yeah. A lot of those resonate with me and you know, I, “The Infinite Onion” is about layers in part because I like to say I’m built for depth, not speed. I will keep looking further in, long before I will take my head out of the hole, start looking around. So I keep going deeper on the issue.
Some of the things I found and resonated with, I put in that article that you’re referring to on my website, but to answer the question, when I was living in Germany, I went through toward the end there when my relationship was, in the process of ending, and I was in the process of reclaiming my self, or, you know, internally. I went through an uplevel of sorts regarding my honesty about what was going on inside and who I was and what I wanted. It was not a pleasant time. I was also running out of money and facing starting over on my own and uncertain about most things, and so I did something fairly radical… Alice Archer is my pen name. We can put in the show notes a link to an article I wrote about this. What I’m just about to tell you, that gives some more detail, it’s in my legal name, which is fine. I’m coming out as my pen name and my legal name right here [legal name is Grace Kerina]. You got it first.
Jeff: Exclusive right here on the podcast.
Alice: It’s time. And I only, as an aside, I only used a pen name or use a pen name to manage the marketing because in my legal name, I have a career as an editor. So that just keeps things separate. So I did this, for me, radical thing, which is I made a contract with myself again. It was a contract for a vacation.
I couldn’t afford to go anywhere, but I was up to here with overwhelm and the internal malmstrom, and I couldn’t figure out a way to help myself sort it out while I was still living with the person that I was in the relationship with. That was not going to happen. And so I wrote a vacation agreement, which I signed and dated and considered, I will absolutely do this. Binding and official, and it stated super clearly what I would and would not do during my vacation, which would run from late October through January. So I was self employed then, as I still am and I agreed to finish all my work by 1:00 PM Monday through Friday, no matter what.
And I was not allowed to strategize or speculate about my future. I was allowed to stay up as late as I wanted to. I could goof around. I could read whatever I wanted to as long as I wanted to ahead all of these freedoms. And I had a vacation from trying to figure out my life. And so one weekend I got up ahead of steam worrying about why I felt so drawn to m/m romance and questioning things. I wondered if I was not cisgendered after all, and you know, am I the Q of questioning and what does it all mean? And finally, belatedly, I started Googling and I found, you know, on this wild ride with stops for Harry Draco fan fiction, some of which really surprised me with the thematic depth and quality of this novel length storytelling. But, I found this, you know, community and that we’re in now, and a lot of information that helped me just calm down and feel free to write what I was being drawn to write about, which was an I’m romance and I’ve kept, you know, in my English German library there in Freiburg where I lived, I’ve found, the “Psychology Today” article was from January/February, 2014. It’s an article by, Hara Estroff Marano. It’s called “Love and Power.” And, in this article she explores power plays in relationships in general, and there’s a sub section on gender roles.
And she says, in 200 years, says John Gottman, who’s a very well known, relationship researcher, heterosexual relationships will be who are gay and lesbian relationships are today. That’s a long time to wait for change, but it reflects his findings that couple interactions are far more direct and kind among same sex partners than the power struggles that arise among heterosexual ones, which is fascinating.
There’s a lot of cultural history and assumption just in that one idea. Then Gottman did a 12 year study of same sex couples that revealed obviously, similarities in the ways same sex couples operate, as compared to heterosexual couples. B ut research has shown that there are also some qualities of strength, like humor and the ability to calm down during a fight that are especially key to same sex couples.
Things like that make me feel and conclude is that, you know, I’m doing this to bring the future forward. Like, I don’t want to wait 200 years to have relationships that are more kind and more, able to be calming me down during a fight. So, just another facet of the whole.
Jeff: That’s fascinating because you had some of that very quote you just gave us from that “Psychology Today” in the article I read on your website about why you write this. So that’s, I like how all that ties itself back together, and certainly we could all use more kindness these days for sure.
So it’s, it’s great that you’re writing into the future too, and trying to push it that way.
Alice: Yeah. It feels good. There’s one other element. There’s also this whole issue of writing the other. Lauren Bewkes, she’s an author I really like her take on writing the other, she says, unless you’re writing an autobiography, any character you write is going to be the other.
And so if there’s a characteristic that’s different in the character that’s being written, then you know. and she says, people are different. There are things we don’t get about each other. Usually it’s because we haven’t asked. So ask and then write. And I really like that as an M.O. for exploration, ask and write.
Jeff: You mentioned Harry and Draco fan fic.
Alice: Yes, let’s go back there, shall we?
Jeff: What were some of the other stories and books that were kind of your gateways into m/m romance as you started reading
It was long before I started reading that there were signs and sparks. I remember, gosh, how old was I? I can’t remember, but it was, you know, I was an adult out of college. But it was a long time ago and I was living in Seattle at the time. And that movie, that Merchant Ivory movie, “Maurice” had come out and I went to see it.
And I just remember sitting there like, my heart was just bursting. Like I couldn’t understand what I couldn’t understand. It’s like, yeah, it was a great story, but like, these people in the society and like, ouch. Like, ouch, just seriously, ouch, and I, I went back, I, got sick the next day, like with a bad cold, but the movie it was only on for one more day, and I walked in the rain to go see it again because I just, it was back in the days when it wouldn’t be out on video for a while, so I had to go do that. It’s almost like that’s when the questions started. and then there was “Brokeback Mountain.” I know you asked about books, but I’m giving you the full media answer. Then there was “Brokeback Mountain,” which got my attention in this regard as well, and that I can’t tell you how many journals I filled with.
Analysis and all manner of exploration and self exploration and writing alternative, happier endings. And, you know, just trying to figure out a lot of it was just trying to figure out why I felt that was so compelling.
And, as a small aside, you know, I do some studies about shamanism and shamans believe that our experiences are contracted. If there are any shamans out there and I’ve gotten that wrong, please go to my website and send me an email and correct me. But I’m a dabbler not an expert, but, and that helps in a way because it’s almost like I contracted to come here and write male/male romance novels. And I’m still trying to understand the why, and then I have over the years, read E.M. Forester’s “Maurice” and other, books, fiction and memoirs by gay men and then also, Suzanne Brockman’s novel “Hot Target,” which she prefaced with her plea for inclusion, and dedicated to her gay son.
The short answer, now that I’ve told you the long answer, is that that’s what came out, so to speak. You know, when I finally sat down to write a novel after the “Lord of the Rings” reward, the novel I wrote became “Everyday History” and that’s my path. Apparently.
Jeff: We don’t often hear ones that quite take that trajectory either, so it’s good to get that kind of perspective too.
How can people keep up with you online to keep up with everything else going on?
Alice: On my website, alicearcher.com it has all the details, including a subscription to the newsletter and “Executive Decision” for free, and social media links. But I feel like this is a good time to say that I’m so new at all the public facing stuff.
I’m still learning how to do social media and other basic things. So they’re with me as I get through the learning curves and it’s happening. I’m interested, very interested in connecting with readers, so please feel free to contact me however is comfortable for you.
Jeff: Awesome. We’ll put links to your site and your social media into the show notes as well so that people can keep up, both with how “The Infinite Onion” rolls out and of course, as the new stuff comes along as well.
Alice: Thank you.
Jeff: Thank you so much for being with us, Alice. It’s been awesome talking to you.
Alice: You’re welcome. Thank you for being here. I love what you guys are doing.