Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonThe guys announce the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for July: Mr. Frosty Pants by Leta Blake.

Continuing the Christmas in July theme, Jeff and Will review Love Happens Anyway by RJ Scott. Jeff also reviews Sticky Fingers by Davidson King.

Jeff is joined by Leslie Copeland, Pandora Pine and Piper Scott to talk about the fourth edition of the Heart2Heart Charity Anthology. Leslie has the scoop on the origin of the popular series and how it took a paranormal twist for the first time. Pandora, Piper and Jeff talk about their stories and what it was like working with the prompts from readers. Pandora and Piper also have details on what’s coming up next for them.

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Show Notes

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.

Interview Transcript – Leslie Copeland, Piper Scott & Pandora Pine

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Jeff: Leslie, Piper and Pandora, thank you so much for being here. I’m excited we get to talk about the new “Heart2Heart” volume.

Leslie: Thank you for having us.

Pandora: Hello.

Piper: Hi there.

Jeff: Leslie, we’ll kick off with you because this is your brainchild. And before we get into the new anthology that’s just come out, tell us how this whole thing got started and what sparked the idea.

Leslie: ” Heart2Heart” started with a random conversation among friends where I said, what if? and the authors I was chatting with at the time, it was a group conversation, I think. And they went, Oh, that’s a great idea. And they kept enabling me. And we said, well, you know, let’s ask this person if they wanted to do it too.

And let’s ask this person, and then that one said, you should ask this person and before we know it, there was I think, 11 authors in that first volume. And we had no expectations. We thought anthologies, you know historically they’re not great sellers and it’s gay romance.

And so, you know, our pool is even smaller. Then we made just over $20,000 and we kept going. So, that was it. I mean, it really, it was a what if and people said yes.

Jeff: But not only did the authors say yes, but clearly the readers said yes also.

Leslie: Yeah, absolutely. It was a very conscious decision with that first volume that we really wanted to include authors that the readers would want to read, you know, thinking how can we make the most money for charity? And yeah, we just, we absolutely nailed it. I’m really lucky that a lot of the authors have come back multiple times and readers now know, this person’s doing it again I have to read their stories. So yeah, they keep coming back.

Jeff: And you’ve all, from a reader point of view, you’ve always had an interesting conceit about how everything hangs together too. It’s not just a bunch of stories, you know, tossed into a book and called an anthology. There are things that tie all of this together in a nice package to every single time.

Leslie: Part of the reader experience is we didn’t want just to publish something and hope for the best. We wanted something enjoyable. We wanted all new content. We wanted stories that readers would love, you know, nice escape kind of stories.

Coming up with Heart2Heart as a dating app and then with each subsequent volume, using that as our central sort of thing, like everything in some way, it always ties back to this heart to heart dating app. It’s nice to sort of give us that launch point for every story. All of the stories are so incredibly different, but they all tie back to this one particular thing.

Jeff: Now you mentioned $20,000 for that first anthology, the anthologies have always supported charities. How much have you raised across the three volumes so far? And what are the charities that you’ve been supporting?

Leslie: With each volume, we’ve chosen three charities. They have all been focused on the LGBT community, whether it’s youth or, you know, the one time we did the Trans Lifeline, which focuses on issuing micro grants to people who might be going through name changes or needing different documentation.

So all told, we have raised just over $80,000 U S. And we have donated now to nine different charities in both the US and Canada, big name charities, like the Trevor Project, Rainbow Railroad, but also really small charities like Trans Lifeline. There’s an LGBT life youth line that we did with, volume three – One in 10 Youth, we did the Ali Forney Center, which focuses on homelessness. It’s an amazing mix. It’s hard every time to choose just three charities.

Jeff: Cause there’s so many out there that do great work.

Leslie: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Jeff: Now there’s always been a reader component to this as well, because you always do a big poll of what readers might want to see, whether it’s a name or a setting. How did you bring that kind of into the whole “Heart2Heart” concept?

Leslie: So that was kind of tied in back with that what if? You know, it was just kind of a brainstorming session and we were throwing ideas around and, Oh, what if we do this? What if we do this? What do we do this? What if we ask the readers for suggestions and we took it and ran with it. And I think for that first volume, because nobody really knew what to expect, I want to say we had maybe 150 different suggestions from readers. At that point we were looking for characters with different jobs. So that’s where we got things like a dog Walker and an assassin and a magician and a mortician, just totally oddball. And we encourage, you know, the really unique ideas.

Going into the second volume then we were like, well, we have to do this again because it worked out so well. And I think it gives the readers a little bit of ownership knowing that they influenced these stories. With volume four that we just did I think we had close to 500 suggestions submitted.

Jeff: It was a giant spreadsheet.

Leslie: It really was. If any author ever needs a plot bunny, I have them coming out of my ears over these four volumes of spreadsheets.

Jeff: Piper and Pandora as authors, what’s it like for you to get this big sheet and not only have to pick something from the big sheet, but then have it be a linchpin for characters and some of the setup in your story. Piper, I’ll start with you because you’re coming back to the anthology for another visit. So you’ve been through this before as well.

Piper: It’s been a pleasure to come back to “Heart2Heart.” For me, the reader prompts are something that I’ve dealt with in the past, even before, agreeing to write for the anthology, in my reader group. When we hit certain membership levels, sometimes I’ll write a short story.

And at that point I poll my readers and ask, what kind of story would you guys like to see cause I’m writing this for you? I have had experience writing with reader prompts before, although not 500 of them, which is, it’s just, it’s crazy. It goes to show how amazing the community is.

You’ve got so much love for this project going on. And so many people thinking of such amazing ideas. I know browsing that list. I had at least three story ideas and I had to sit down and really decide what one I wanted to go to go for. So just it’s been a blast, you know, working with the reader prompts, I find it really juices up your creativity.

And if you’re, you know, if you’re ever stuck, then you have someone kind of like pushing you from behind, you know, like this is their idea. Do justice for them? So it really kind of gives me inspiration to write something awesome.

Jeff: And Pandora, how about you? This is your first “Heart2Heart.”

Pandora: It is my first one. The interesting thing for me is that this is almost a throwback to my days of fan fiction, where we would do writing prompts in our writing group, you know, where, you know, everyone’s going to a picnic or a ballgame or something similar to that. And, you know, the thing that I liked the most about it too, is that in my regular writing, I get so many requests from readers.

You know, these two should get together or this should have happened. Why didn’t that happen? And now I get the opportunity to take reader suggestions and put it into a story made just for them.

Jeff: Will and I are new to this also. Having all that there was good and bad in some ways. It’s like this multitude of riches that you have to pick from. For us it was super weird having so much there and trying to pick things that we also know how to write a little bit too.

I was so happy there was a hockey player on that list. I think it was like hockey player who had left the sport and became a journalist. It was very specific, but it also as a journalist in a previous life it’s like, I’ll take that right there. Give me.

But I was also super impressed at all the people that responded cause that’s amazing response to get for anything.

Leslie: And sometimes looking through the responses too it’s really neat because you’ll see that sometimes the readers will weave a story for you. Usually what we say is the information that people put on that form, it can be totally random. It doesn’t have to connect, you know, you’re not pairing up character A and character B you’re just making random suggestions. But we’ll get them that it’s Oh, you know, this is John and John did this and then this is Sam and then Sam did this, but back then they did this. And so like, you know, the prompt is almost a fully fleshed out story just in these suggestions.

So it’s, it’s neat to see just how much thought goes into filling out this form by some of these readers, some of them are totally off the wall and they’re amazing. Some of them are really cool. So yeah, it’s an amazing mix to be able to go through.

Jeff: You mentioned that the origin and the first three volumes so far have revolved around a dating app, but you’ve pivoted for volume four. Tell us what we’re going to get in volume four.

Leslie: With the first three volumes of “Heart2Heart” they have been contemporary stories. It’s been, you know, our worlds are totally just regular classic contemporary with predominantly authors who write contemporary and a few exceptions of authors like Charlie Cochet, who will write some paranormal, some contemporary, but there’s not a whole lot of authors that I would love to work with.

But they just don’t write contemporary, their readers aren’t expecting that from them. So with three volumes under our belt, they’re just like, you know what? Okay. Let’s give it a shot. Let’s see what happens. So volume four is paranormal. We’ve decided, you know what? It’s still our world, but things are a little different.

There are vampires. There are witches, there is magic. There are shifters and it’s just part of the world. And of course, I mean Heart2Heart. It’s totally there. What we decided to do this time is all of our stories are tied into Heart2Heart through a podcast. That was our thread that ties them together.

It’s really neat the way that our authors have been able to tie in this podcast element of their characters, look, I don’t want to spoil it, but they’re looking for something and they sort of find it through this connection to the podcast. And then the story itself, some of them are very paranormal. Some of them have paranormal elements, but it’s just really cool. It’s a neat change to be able to have this time where I’m excited about it.

Jeff: I’m excited that you involved Will and I to take care of the podcast part because the character that we have is the host of the podcast and his assistant.

And they’re the two who kind of find love in their story. But there’s more going on there that I won’t spoil, because there’s some interesting things that go on in their story and things that are discovered. For us it was like the first time we’ve touched paranormal. We’re very much sweet, contemporary, pretty low angst writers and to sprinkle a little magic through there and play with that was, was kind of fun. You know, it was a nice spreading of the wings into something that we don’t do very often.

Leslie: And you did it for charity. So there you go.

Jeff: Exactly, did it for charity, which is always a good thing.

Now, Piper we’ve mentioned earlier that you’re coming back to the anthology. What brings you back to it?

Piper: I had a blast working on “Heart2Heart” three. The team was just amazing. It’s very humbling to be able to work with such incredible authors that when Leslie was like, Hey, I’m thinking about doing a paranormal edition for “Heart2Heart” four, are you in? I was like, yes, 100%! I don’t even care what the details are. I’m going to be in this anthology.

Leslie: There was no hesitation.

Piper: She was like, Hey, I’m like, yes. And I think just getting to explore the, the difference between the versions, a “Heart2Heart” three being a contemporary version, and then “Heart2Heart” four being a paranormal edition, has just been so good for me because I write both contemporary and shifter or paranormal type stories. It’s been Just a blast getting to explore both sides of myself, and kind of getting to those fantasy roots I kinda came up from. So it was just a kind of a perfect storm of circumstances that brought me back.

Jeff: Can you tell us a little bit about what your story is about?

Piper: So pretty much you have a human who is the sweetest, most innocent virgin who’s ever lived in a shed in the Chicagoland area. And then you have this big old demonic family full of all these quirky siblings, and they get together through the power of a wish gone slightly awry. And there’s just a lot of laughter I don’t want to spill too much because I want everyone to go read it. It’s just hilarious. I think it’s probably one of the funniest books I’ve ever written, right up there with “Bond” from the “Forbidden Desires” series. So if you guys are listening and you’re a fan of Everard and Harry, you should go check this one out cause you’ve got some, some good vibes going on there.

Jeff: Nice. And Pandora, what brought you on board and made you excited to want to work on this particular project?

Pandora: You know, it was kind of funny. I was in bed with double pneumonia when I got…

Jeff: That’s not funny at all.

Pandora: No, but it is. I had a fever, you know, and I get this message from Leslie asking if I would be interested in doing this and I’m like, wait, am I hallucinating now too?

It’s an honor to be asked to join this project and not just to be handed the baton, but to be handed the baton and we’re taking the series in a different direction. We’re kind of out on a limb here with paranormal and it’s just, it’s an amazing opportunity to write with some of my favorite authors. Again, it reminds me of my fan fiction days when we would all get together and pick a topic and just write together. And to me, that’s the best thing about our community is how everyone gets together and work so well together.

Jeff: And what’s your story about?

Pandora: You know, I get odd story ideas like out of the blue, like little bolts of lightning. And I had thought it would be fun to write a story about a blind psychic. And the only way that this psychic could see was when he touched another person. And one of the prompts that the reader sent in was that they wanted to see something about a character who had never seen snow before.

And I’m like, there it is. There’s my blind psychic. So it sort of evolved from there.

Like, you know what? I get story ideas. I never know where they’re going, you know, a character or even sometimes like in a name. And it just happened that the blind psychic had a name and the name was on the sheet too. And I’m just like, well, it is really meant to be now.

Jeff: How did it work for you, Piper? Did you have a glimmer of an idea or did you let the sheet kind of guide the way?

Piper: Well, I’ve been wanting to write demons for a long time. But as Piper Scott, I write contemporary omegaverse usually. So I don’t really get to dabble with shifters, or demons or any other kind of paranormal critters.

So, being invited to this anthology was kind of like – time to do everything that I want to do on my passion project list. So let’s get some demons in there. It’s been fantastic. I cannot wait to write more because I’m pretty sure this is the start of a new series and that solo Piper books are going to become paranormal as well in the future.

We’ll wait and see what’s going on with that, but, Yeah. I went in with an inkling of an idea of what I wanted to write. And then, mine was so coincidental because as I was scanning the list, there was a prompt for the character being the youngest son of a family of five brothers.

And then the second prompt was the youngest son and he has four older sisters and I was like, wait, perfect. And it just kind of popped in my head, this idea for this, you know, big demonic family and it locked inside this universe and everything kind of just unraveled from there. So it was a happy marriage between what I wanted to do, and then just ideas from this reader prompted suggestions.

So, just all around a great time. And I’m very fortunate to have been able to realize that idea on paper.

Leslie: It’s really cool. Actually talking about wanting to turn your story into more. You’re not the only person that has said that of the “Heart2Heart” stories that they’ve had so much fun writing them or the characters were just so, so perfect.

Susi Hawke is doing volume four and I know that she plans to make more out of her story. Probably the biggest one was May Archer. Her story from the very first “Heart2Heart” became, a little novella called “The Date,” which spawned the entire “Love in O’Leary” series. Yeah, I think to two of her three previous “Heart2Heart” stories, she had tied into O’Leary as well.

So it’s cool. This fun little project is actually turning into so much more for some of the authors

Jeff: Pandora. Have you considered, is this a potential spinoff for you as well?

Pandora: You know, I don’t know. I’m sort of straddling the paranormal and the contemporary world right now. And I have a feeling like the ideas on the spreadsheet. This story going further will probably be reader driven. If it’s something that, that readers are interested in and seeing more of this little universe, then absolutely. I’m definitely game for that.

Jeff: If only I could tie this dude with magic into something else that goes into my contemporary universe.

Leslie: A guy gets hit in the head with a hockey puck, has a concussion, wakes up and, Oh my gosh, what’s the world come to…

Jeff: Leslie might have just written the whole thing right there.

What’s it like for you, Leslie watching all this stuff come together. You’re really the one who gets to hear all of the authors angst. I know you’ve heard some of our angst routinely. But you watch all the stories come together to as they all start to pile into the folder.

Leslie: It’s kind of weird. Authors will talk sometimes about imposter syndrome, and just like not really feeling a hundred percent confident in themselves. And I have that as well, but for me, I’m a reader. I’m not an author. I never will be. It’s not something that’s in me. I’m just a reader. I love reading books and like, it’s really cool. I have friends and they write books. They’re authors. And then I get this project and there’s 16 stories in a folder. And you know, I look at that and think, I had this random idea a couple years ago and look at all of these things that are written and it’s just, it’s really cool.

You know, it’s like that, that little baby reader in grade four going, Oh, books are awesome. And it’s like a magic.

Jeff: That’s the magic of story. Absolutely. Who were the other authors involved? Cause we should give them some credit here too.

Leslie: We have a whole stable of them. So we actually have 18 authors, contributing to 16 stories in volume four. So we have Charlie Cochet, Morgan Brice, Hailey Turner, J. D. Light, Jeff, yourself, and Will, Jenn Burke, Kiki Burrelli, Lisa Oliver, Macy Blake, Maz Maddox, Pandora and Piper, Sam Burns and W.M. Fawkes, they’re writing together, SJ Himes, Silvia Violet, and Susi Hawke.

Jeff: Quite the lineup. I mean, it’s just amazing to get all of those stories bundled into a package.

Leslie: Yeah, I kind of hold nothing back when I invite authors, I figure the worst that happens is they’ll say no. So I will ask anybody if I want them on the projects I’ll ask.

Jeff: Yeah. Cause I mean the worst that happens, like you said is no. And if you don’t ask, you’ll never find out.

Leslie: Exactly. And sometimes they say yes and it’s so cool.

Jeff: What’s coming up for you, Piper, through the rest of the year?

Piper: Oh so much. So I’ll try to condense it as best I can. Right now I’m at the tail end of finishing my next novel, “During the Flight,” which is the third book in my “Small Town Heart” series as Emma Alcott. And Lynn van Dorn and I at the same time are also finishing up “Finch,” which is the third book in the “Forbidden Desires” spinoff series – the sixth book in the overarching series.

So that’s very exciting. I’m hoping to have those two out maybe at the time of this podcast. But if not then soon, and I also have a ton of audio on the way, “The Proposal,” which is the second book in the “Single Dads Support Group” series and “Save Me,” which is the second book in “The Rutledge Brothers” series, so hop on over to Amazon, Audible and iTunes and pick them up. But after that I’ve got “The Solution,” which is the third book in the “Single Dads Support Group” and “Keep Me,” which is the last book in “The Rutledge Brothers” series that will be going live. And then the rest of the “Single Dads Support Group” books should be going live through 2020 and into 2021.

They are pretty meaty so I’m thinking it’s going to take some time, but we’re trying to get them out as soon as possible. And apart from that, I’m planning on starting a new series as Piper, which will be coming you know, sometime soon, I’m so bad about dates. I get just a sidetrack sometimes and projects take longer than I think they will. And then, you know, I write 150,000 words when I was supposed to write 60, I don’t like to give specific dates, but a new Piper series is coming soon and I’ve got a couple new Emma books, which are my contemporary titles that I have, like in bits and pieces started.

Those will be coming out hopefully in 2020 as well, or if not into 2021.

Jeff: Fantastic. That’s a full slate right there.

Piper: Full slate. It’s crazy.

Jeff: And Pandora. How about you? What’s coming up in the back half of this year.

Pandora: Well, I have a couple more books coming out for Jude and Cope and maybe some more for Tennyson and Ronan in the “Cold Case Psychic” series, but I’m also working on a brand new contemporary series called “Protect and Serve.” It’s about foster brothers who all became first responders of one sort or another. The police officer’s book was out last month and hopefully next month we will see Ozzie who’s my firefighter. Later on in the year, I have this idea for a series about warlocks, who are, you know, their coven stretches all the way back to the Spanish inquisition and needing to hide themselves so they didn’t end up, you know, on the wrong end of an Inquisitor’s bonfire. Hopefully we have all of that coming up, and maybe some cute little Christmas project that I’m not a hundred percent sure about yet.

Jeff: Gotta get the cute Christmas project in there

Pandora: With everything going on right now. I am totally into Christmas. Like if I could put my Christmas tree up right now, I would cause there’s just so much joy in Christmas and especially, you know, love stories that revolve around it. So looking forward to that.

Jeff: I’m writing my Christmas story in July just to keep with the Christmas in July concept, so seemed like the perfect time to do it.

And how can folks keep up with you guys online? Pandora we’ll go ahead and start with you.

Pandora: I’m on Facebook. I’m under my own name there. And my reader group is called Pandora’s box. Look for the, you know, there’s so many Pandora’s boxes on Facebook… who knew. But you’ll see the big banner with me on it and you know, probably one of my books.

Jeff: Fantastic. And Piper?

Piper: The easiest way would probably be to join my reader group on Facebook you can find it at So hopefully that shouldn’t be too hard to find. If Facebook’s not your jam, you can find other contact information at my author website, Or you can join me on Instagram. Look me up

Jeff: Fantastic. And Leslie, where is “Heart2Heart” available and for how long? Cause this is limited time.

Leslie: Yeah, definitely “Heart2Heart” is available on Amazon and you can read it for free through Kindle Unlimited. It is only available for 90 days, so that’s end of September. It’s available in ebook and paperback and the paperbacks historically are absolutely monstrous.

Jeff: They take up a good chunk of our bookshelf.

Leslie: They really do. But they’re awesome to have. So yeah, that’s where to find us and don’t wait too long, because you know, once it’s gone, it’s gone. If the author choose to republish their stories individually, some of our authors have definitely done that. But some of the stories that have been in the anthology before have never been seen again.

Jeff: All right. Well, thank you all for coming and talking about this wonderful project. Looking forward to hearing, in a few months, how much we’ve earned for some charities.

Leslie: Absolutely. Thank you.