Jeff shares a book recommendation from a listener. Will’s “Christmas in July” reading continues with two books by Avery Ford, The Holiday Mix Up and Second Chance for Christmas.
Nora Phoenix talks about Omega’s Truth, the tenth and final book in her Irresistible Omegas series. Nora also discusses why she likes to write across so many genres, her collaboration with K.M. Neuhold, what got her into writing and how it’s helped her. She also teases what’s coming next.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
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 Mermaid The Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Favorite Guest Entry Form
- Interlocking Fragments series by Sammi Cee and Michele Notaro on Amazon
- Stories of Us series by Rheland Richmond on Amazon
- Significant Brothers series by E. Davies on Amazon
- What’s the Most Recent Awesome Book You’ve Read – July 2020 on Patreon (leave us a comment to tell us a book you’re loving!)
- The Holiday Mix Up by Avery Ford on Amazon
- Second Chance for Christmas by Avery Ford on Amazon
- Living in the Pages Podcast website
- Nora Phoenix Interview
- Nora Phoenix: website | Weekly Deals | Nora’s Nook Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram | Patreon | BookBub
- Irresistible Omegas series by Nora Phoenix on Amazon
- Omega’s Truth by Nora Phoenix on Amazon
- Perfect Hands series by Nora Phoenix on Amazon
- K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward on Amazon
- Off Plan by May Archer on Amazon
- Fakers by Lucy Lennox and May Archer on Amazon
- Hardwood by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This episode of the podcast is brought to you by Candlewick Press, publisher of The Mermaid The Witch and the Sea, the new YA fantasy novel by Maggie Tokuda-Hall.
NPR recently featured this as a book to read this summer, and it’s easy to see why from this description.
In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas.
The pirate Florian, born Flora, has always done whatever it takes to survive–including sailing under false flag on the Dove as a marauder, thief, and worse. Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, a highborn Imperial daughter, is on board as well–accompanied by her own casket. But Evelyn’s one-way voyage to an arranged marriage in the Floating Islands is interrupted when the captain and crew show their true colors and enslave their wealthy passengers.
Both Florian and Evelyn have lived their lives by the rules, and whims, of others. But when they fall in love, they decide to take fate into their own hands–no matter the cost.
Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s sweeping fantasy debut, full of stolen memories, illicit mermaid’s blood, double agents, and haunting mythical creatures conjures an extraordinary cast of characters and the unforgettable story of a couple striving to stay together in the face of myriad forces wishing to control their identities and destinies.
There is so much here for fantasy lovers: Pirates, mermaids, witchcraft, Japanese-inspired cultural and folkloric themes… and best of all, two strong, queer, BIPOC protagonists.
The Mermaid The Witch and the Sea, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and published by Candlewick Press, is available now wherever books are sold.
Interview Transcript – Nora Phoenix
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Nora, welcome to the podcast. It’s great to have you here.
Nora: Thank you so much for having me.
Jeff: Going to talk about all kinds of things today and we’re going to kick it off with the 10th book in the “Irresistible Omegas” series that’s coming out this Friday called “Omega’s Truth.” But before we get into that, tell folks who don’t know perhaps what this series is about.
Nora: Yeah. So this is one of those sub genres that people either love or hate, Mpreg.
I absolutely love it. And what I love about it is that you get to play around with power dynamics and they’ve always fascinated me. It’s one of the things I absolutely love about writing Mpreg in general, but even more in Mpreg because my world has alphas, betas and omegas, and you get to play around with the traditional roles and then with non traditional omegas or with nontraditional alphas.
And that has been so much fun, but also very satisfying because you get to challenge basically roll patterns, just like we see them in society. So in that sense, I’ve put some messages in that series. Yeah. It’s not just all, you know, fun and games and, sexy times which they have as well. But, yeah, it’s a combination o f world building.
It has a suspense plot lines and then they’re all poly romances. So, three or more men together, which is also something I love, because again, it plays with the power dynamics. In a relationship with two dynamics are easier, but how do you build a relationship with three people with four, and keep it equal?
Those are things that really fascinated me in this series. So it’s been a lot of fun, but the 10th book will be the last one. So all good things must come to an end.
Jeff: So it’s the grand finale here.
Nora: It is. And it’s been really challenging because, I had a lot of plot points to tie up and a lot of people who needed that final happy end because it’s not a romance if it doesn’t have a happy end and that’s the hill I’m dying on. So, I wanted to make sure that it was a satisfying ending for all the characters and for the plot lines. So it’s been, it’s been fun to write, but it’s also been a challenge this last book to, to finish it. Well, the grand finale, it has to satisfy.
Jeff: What was the inspiration for the series going into it?
Nora: Yeah, that’s the fun part because this sort of started as a challenge. We were in my Facebook group talking about, basically a lack of poly romances with more than three men, so four or more, and, kind of like a Harem, except those are so often just focused on the sex. And basically my readers challenged me, Nora, you should write that. And sometimes when people will say that you go like, Oh, you know, I’ll add it to the list. And for some reason that one struck me and I was like, I want to write this, but I want to write it in a way where they need each other. So it’s not just four men who happen to be together, but I want them to actually need each other.
And that’s how I came up with, okay if I set this in an Mpreg world, I can play around with having physical needs, having emotional needs, having the power dynamics. And so it, I don’t want to say it started as a joke, but it definitely started a lot more light hearted. Then it turned out to be because over time I’ve poured my soul into these books.
Mpreg has, little bit the, a reputation of being just, you know, fluffy and focused on the sexy times. And often it is. My books are, they have their sexy times, but they’re pretty deep. Yeah. They have a lot of emotional development and they have a lot of, I think mirroring issues that you see in our society.
I have the Mpreg equivalent of non-binary character. Yeah. Or have transgender characters. And that has been incredibly satisfying to show in a completely different world in a completely different way. And I’ve heard so much positive feedback from readers is how much the series has meant to them and helped them in their self discovery.
So that’s something I’m super grateful for.
Jeff: It sounds like you’re putting into your Mpreg world a lot of our real world and then exploring it. How, much do you try to keep to, I guess I would say the realities of our real world while putting it into this alternate universe?
Nora: It is a made up universe because, technically it is not set in the U S it’s set in an unnamed country that has a different political system.
At the end of the series, there actually is a civil war going on. At the same time, I’m mirroring some of the tensions that we see in our society at the moment, tensions between the rich and the poor tensions between, you know, racial tensions, tensions between those in power or those who are abused by that power.
And I’m trying to put that in a different way into my book books. What I like about it is that you can sort of show it in a different way where people may be are a little more open to it because it’s a fictional world, but if readers don’t see the parallels and that’s fine. It’s not a sermon.
It’s not, you know, I’m not preaching. If you just want to read them and you just think they’re awesome books, that’s fine. But a lot of readers do pick up on those messages and they tell me how much they appreciate that. So that has been very rewarding for me.
Jeff: Was it always planned to be 10? Or did you just, at some point you know, 10 is going to be it?
Nora: It was planned as three. That was my idea. I had the original four characters. Then I had one side character, which I figured, you know, he’s going to get his own story and that would be it. The series just went from there and it, I mean, it did well in sales, which, you know, also helps.
Cause if it doesn’t well do well, then you have to make the financial consideration. Is it worth pursuing this or not? But I just had so much fun with the series, so much fun writing it. And the feedback was so awesome. And I just kept developing new characters that needed a story. Even now my readers are like, Nora, you need to write a spinoff because we still have like 10 characters who we haven’t had the story for. And I’m like, okay.
Jeff: That’s incredible. How did you go from potting a trilogy into seven more books? Cause it sounds like, I mean, obviously there’s a lot of stuff going on in here.
Nora: There is. Yeah the bigger plot is something I enjoy immensely. So I did plot out a bigger, basically a thriller plot with a medical plot, there’s a corruption plot. There’s police corruption. There’s an overthrow of a government. There’s a military coup there’s a civil war. That part. Yeah. I had planned it on a much smaller scale, but when the series grew, I was like, okay, I get to develop this further.
And again, I’m playing around with the question. If people do something bad, but they do it with the right motivation to ultimately achieve a good goal, does that make it okay if you use bad methods, but what you ultimately achieve is good? Does that make it okay? Which is a moral question that keeps popping up in this series, which I like to play around with.
Jeff: That sounds way fun to write much less to read.
Nora: Yes, it is incredibly fun to write. I get to put so much in it, political stuff and emotional stuff and psychological development and, a lot of stuff that I’m thinking about myself and writing really is the best therapy. I keep saying it, like I get paid to go to therapy if I don’t write.
I think my head would be a lot less peaceful. I just process a lot of what’s going on in my life and in the world through my writing. So it’s been very healthy for me.
Jeff: Let’s talk about “Omega’s Truth” a little bit. As you’re wrapping up, what do readers have to look forward to here besides wrapping up all these various plot points?
Nora: I think the big question that fans of the series will have, after reading the last couple of books is, there’s a general who’s behind the overthrow of the government who’s behind the military coup so far, the evidence suggests that he has a plan for our men, for our ranch, for our pack. But what is that plan will he ultimately prove to be good or evil?
I think that’s the question, aside from the romance, that a lot of readers are worrying about like, how is this going to play out? Because so all I can say and all I can promise is it has a happy ending. I do not do bad endings. I promise. I promise.
Jeff: The Nora Phoenix guarantee.
Nora: Oh, my gosh, there’s few things that I hate more than going into a book or a movie or anything, or TV series and being promised the happy end or expecting happy and it’s not happening. That is like such a disappointment that can, you know, that can take away my joy for days. There’s a reason I write and read romance. I love the happy ends, you know, that’s what I do it for. So yeah. So wonderful, happy ends for our three characters and for all of them really, but how? That’s the question.
Jeff: You mentioned that there have been fans who’ve talked about spinoffs. Can you envision a spinoff out of this eventually?
Nora: Yes. So there’s one main pack. And in the previous books we had a second pack form, basically split off because they became too big. I do hope to write that spin off in the future.
It won’t be this year. I have a different series planned for this year. In the future, I do hope to pick up the storyline from that second pack. Maybe make a little jump into the future and see what happens. I’ve had some suggestions from readers as well, for characters, for storylines they’d like to see.
So, we’ll see what happens. The plants are there, but you know how it is… so many stories to write.
Jeff: You write in several genres, mpreg is just one of them. Do you have a favorite out of all of them? The thing that you just keep coming back to?
Nora: Not really. I like that I write different genres and I hope to actually write even more, the only paranormal ,and I always debate whether or not you can call in Mpreg paranormal. It’s kind of like, is it, is it really? I don’t know. I would hope to write something paranormal, maybe angels or vampires. I think that would be a lot of fun.
So I just like exploring different genres because they give you different opportunities to, try new things. I’ve written some scifi with aliens, which was commercially, not the biggest success, putting it mildly, but so rewarding to write. You have to give yourself those projects as well.
And just say, you know, for the hell of it, I’m just going to write it because it’s fun. And because it’s rewarding for me and if it doesn’t sell well, you know, then it doesn’t sell whatever. Yeah.
Jeff: And it is kind of surprising you haven’t done paranormal yet, given all of the other things that you’ve done.
Nora: I’ve done quite a bit. I think the biggest reason so far has been, that I had so many series started is that I wanted to finish things first. So I promised myself, I need to finish this Mpreg series before I start anything else because otherwise, and I finished my sci-fi series earlier this year as well otherwise you run the risk of endangering the relationship you have with readers and that trust placed in you that you will finish your series. It was already a year between the first book and book two and three of my sci-fi series, which was not intentional, but that’s a long time to wait for a second, which I’m sure contributes to the poor sales results.
But I learned from that if you commit yourself to a series, you have to finish it. You can’t start new series and have five series, six series at the same time. Readers want that series to finish at some point. So, I’m finishing up series and then I can start something new. So we’ll see where that leads me.
Jeff: It’s great that you’ve finished the sci-fi series, even though you knew it wasn’t selling well, because we certainly see authors for good reason to have their own that they don’t finish because something doesn’t gel right. In the sales figure.
Nora: Yeah. I would never judge someone for that because, If you are dependent on that income, not everybody can afford to have a hobby project.
The way that I could with this, I was fortunate enough that I didn’t need that particular income. I could afford to write the two more books, but not everybody can. And I totally understand that. I would never judge an author for abandoning a series because it doesn’t sell. That’s I think a very valid judgment call to make it look like it doesn’t sell, you know, fun projects as rewarding as they are, don’t pay the mortgage.
Jeff: From a trope perspective, you’re all over the place there too. But do you have certain favorites that you always want to come back to?
Nora: I think by now daddy kink is pretty established. My whole “Perfect Hands” series is nothing but daddy kink. And I think that’s something that keeps showing up in my books. Again, it’s the power dynamics that fascinate me is when you have a dominant sub or a daddy and a boy, it’s so easy to assume that the daddy is in charge, or the Dom is in charge, but when you do it the right way, it’s the sub. Like everything centers around that submissive, around that boy and a daddy who would insist on being in charge and making all decisions for the wrong reasons is not a good daddy. And that’s the kind of dynamics I love to play with. Just because you’re a daddy doesn’t mean that you top or just because you’re a daddy doesn’t mean that, that you’re older.
I have a book where the daddy is younger than his boy. I have a book where, the daddy bottoms for one of his boys. I like those dynamics. I love playing around with them and just showing people that at the core, it’s not about that. It’s not about oh, you’re older or bigger, so you’re in charge. It’s, it’s what you need, what you crave and what somebody else brings to the table and needs and craves from you. It’s that relationship together. I love that. That to me is romance.
Jeff: How did the power dynamic come to be kind of the thing for you? What is it about that that intrigues you to mess around with your characters?
Nora: I think it’s because – look, I started reading romance when I was a teenager and we’re talking about probably, I must have been 12 or 13 when I swiped my mom’s romances. Obviously I wasn’t allowed to read them, so I did it in secret, but, you know, she loved her category romances and I loved them.
I there’s a reason I picked Nora as my first name of my pen name. Nora Roberts is like my hero. I started reading her books when I was a teenager. I absolutely love her books, but at some point I grew a little tired of male/female romance because of the power dynamics. They bothered me because too often it was assumed that the man had the power over the woman.
And I don’t like that. That to me was degrading in a way. And certain books made that very clear where to me, they definitely cross the line into, okay, this is not consensual here. This is not informed consent. You’re doing things which in itself is fine, but then you have to call it dark romance.
If that’s what you want to write, that’s fine. But then you have to label it as such, but if you sell a romance as, okay, this is a romance, but it has that nonconsensual element. That bothers me a lot. And out of that, I stumbled across the gay romance genre and discovered that, Oh, I get to play around with those power dynamics here.
I’ve written male/female romance I’ve never published. I’ve written young adult. And even in those books that have never been published, you can see me trying to play with those power dynamics, but your options are so much more limited. When I started playing and writing, mm romance, that was, I think instinctively the theme, like this is why I want to write this.
This is what fascinates me. So I think I come at MM romance from a very, probably a psychological viewpoint. It just, that’s what fascinates me. I read a lot of psychological books and still there’s so much to learn about people. So that fascinates me. Yeah.
Jeff: I have to say, I would love to read a Nora Phoenix YA book. If you ever decide to put one of those out.
Nora: Oh my gosh, I have the perfect covers sitting in my way too big stack of unused covered. So I bought like, it’s like the worst, I’m an addict. Like my name is Nora and I’m an addict. I buy premade covers it’s bad, but I have two covers that would be absolutely perfect for YA. So somewhere in the back of my head, I do have an idea. So who knows maybe? Yeah.
Jeff: What do you think the trademark of a Nora Phoenix book is regardless of its genre or trope?
Nora: When I started writing, I thought one of my trademarks is high steam, the heat level because I loved the sex scenes. I love writing them. They fascinate me. And then as, as I wrote more books, I discovered that that wasn’t it as much as I love them, they have to really fit the characters and, one of my last releases, “Healing Hand” features a demisexual character and a character who probably identifies as asexual, but based on trauma. That was such an amazing book to write and it has no penetrative sex whatsoever, nothing there’s, you know, a hand job or that’s it.
And I think, in terms of writing, I considered it one of my best books and it was an eye opener for me because you can’t hide behind sex . You have to write the romance without the sex, which was a challenge, but I loved it. I really, I really loved it. So before I would have said, Oh, t’s the high heat now I think is what characterizes my books is, I think depth. I think I write three dimensional characters who feel very real. My books always are a little different. I turned tropes around. I turned dynamics around. I introduce just little things that are different and I write non typical characters. They’re not standard variety for the most part. Some have limitations, I’ve written a character with a severe stutter. I’ve written a character who’s had an amputation, so, and I would love to write many more diverse characters, for sure. So I think I would say the depth and the emotional development in my books.
I think that’s very characteristic for what I write. At least that’s also what readers tell me.
Jeff: With the diverse characters. There’s so much conversation these days about proper representation of diverse characters. What do you do to help make sure that proper representation exists with everything that you’re writing?
Nora: For me it’s a very, it’s a very loaded question. Because I didn’t grow up in America. I’m Dutch, I’ve only lived here since 2013, so not even seven years, I don’t feel comfortable taking a position specifically on books that are set in the US when it comes to diverse characters, because I don’t share the history of cultural diversity in this country.
I’m learning. I’m learning a lot. I’m reading. I have a degree in history with a specialization in U S history, but that’s book knowledge. At this moment, I would not feel comfortable writing a character of color, whether specifically as a main character also, because I’m trying to follow the lead of authors of color in this.
And what I hear most of the time right now is that they want white authors like me to introduce characters of color as side characters, as secondary characters, but not as main characters and leave that main character for authors of colors to give them a chance. And I think at this point I’m following that lead.
I think that’s fair. I don’t judge anybody who makes a different stand. I think it’s a very personal choice that you have to make. But as I said, being not American, I’m just super careful in being culturally sensitive here because I didn’t grow up with a lot of the social cues that Americans did.
So I miss out on some things. So I have to be very careful there.
Jeff: And pivoting on something else you said. Cause I would be remiss not to ask this since you talked about the steamy factor of some of the books. What’s it like managing three, four bodies potentially in a sex scene as an author? My mind just baffles at how to deal with that and not having enough pronouns to go around necessarily.
Nora: The biggest downside of writing sex scenes that have more than two characters, I mean, you already have the problem with two men cause you can’t use he and him. But when you have more men, you have to use their names and some authors say they come up with descriptions for the younger man or the older man.
But if you are true to your point of view, you wouldn’t say that like, if there is an age difference, you know, between me and my partner, I wouldn’t think of him of her. I’m single, but I wouldn’t think of him of her as, Oh, the older man or the older woman. Like for me, that’s a weird thing.
I would think of that person as him or her or them, or by their name. So that’s what I’m trying to do in a lot of the scenes is just use their name. In mpreg you have it a little easier because you can use alpha, beta and Omega, which identifies the character. So you get to cheat a little there because it is natural for us to think in terms of genders, which alpha, beta Omega are not the, let’s consider them genders right now. We think of people as a man or a woman, or, you know, not to be binary, but that’s, that’s how our minds still work. But when you have four men in a scene, it’s a lot of body parts to keep track of.
Jeff: It is it’s, there’s a lot of things going on there.
Jeff: I’m not brave enough to do that.
Nora: I sometimes do drawings. I’ve been known to, and I say it is, you know, it’s not a joke, but I’ve been known to watch porn scenes with multiple men just to figure out how they do that, which is purely research. I laugh because I’m asexual, like the porn itself really doesn’t do anything for me, but it does help me figure out, like, how would this work? Like what can you do with bodies? What is physically possible? And still, my editor sometimes says, honey, if he’s like this, he can’t reach that. And I’ll be like, huh. Okay. You got a point there.
Jeff: Now you co-write also with K.M. Neuhold. How did you and K.M. come together to form a partnership that’s now gone on for many books?
Nora: Yeah, that’s a funny story because, before I had written my first book, I was a reviewer. I had a blog and one of the books I reviewed was one of Kyleen’s earlier books, which I absolutely loved.
So I have published a review and I just messaged her on Facebook. I reviewed your book and if you want to, you know, read the review, you know, I loved it. Here’s the link. And she wrote back like, Oh, thank you. And she was like, that’s amazing. And we started chatting and I told her that I was a upcoming author that I had a book coming out in October.
And she’s like, well, if you need someone to beta read for me, you know, I’d love that. And I was like, wow. She, at the time had already hit number one with one of her books. And I was like, Oh my God. You know? So, we just hit it off. She read No Filter, which was the first book. I really, she absolutely loved it.
She helped me start my Facebook group and boosted it. I had 300 people within the first week because she posted it in her group. So she’s been super supportive helping me. And I think I had two or three books out, which she absolutely loved when someone in her reader group posted, I think it was like a real story or about two porn stars who had fallen in love.
And they said, Oh, this is a plot bunny. And Kylene responded with, Oh, this sounds amazing. And I had responded at the same time and then some reader said, Oh, you should write it together. And I thought, well, that’s a joke. And then Kyleen responded with, Oh, I would love that. And I was like, Oh, she’s kidding.
You know, it’s the polite thing to say. But then she messaged me and she was like, are you really interested? And I was like, hell yeah, where do I sign? So that’s how we started writing together. And the fun part is, is that we never spoke on the phone and we have never seen each other until we had released three books already.
We did everything over messenger and Facebook. Neither of us are phone people. And we met for the first time at GRL in Virginia. That was the first time we met. So yeah, fun story, but we still love writing together. We mesh really well. Our styles mesh well, we have the same approach to writing, so it’s just been a lot of fun.
Jeff: That’s awesome. I always love hearing how collaborations begin and then, you know, when they’re able to keep going as well, and you guys seem to have so much fun with it.
Nora: We do and you know, get along great. The fun thing is that our or joint books are a different style for both of us because they’re relatively light for me, but that makes them fun to write. They’re a nice diversion from my usual work. It’s the same for her. So we’re just having literally, we’re having fun with them.
Jeff: Who ends up coming up with the plots or is it kind of like, I have this idea and now I have this idea and they just go from there?
Nora: So we’ll go on messenger in the morning when it’s a writing day for us and we’ll go like, okay, what scenes do we want to write?
And then Kyleen goes, Oh, I have this idea what if he goes to his father and then this, and this happens and I’ll be like, Oh, that’s awesome. And I’ll be like, okay. So I was thinking, what if in his background he had a bad breakup and that’s why she’s like, Oh, that sounds good. And then we start writing and we each pick a point of view.
And so far, we don’t plot extensively at all. So far in the seven books that we have written together. Plus a couple of novellas. We’ve only had it once that we have written the same scene without realizing it. And it was a scene that was really easy because it turned out to be a sex scene that was relatively easy to turn into you can use that later on in the book, but that’s the only time that had ever happened. Our writing chemistry is just really good. I love it. It’s very easy.
Jeff: That’s fantastic. How did you get started in M M romance? You talked about being a reader from being a teenager. What made you, you know, put pen to paper? Or, or hands on keyboard, if you prefer.
Nora: I started with pen and paper. I wrote my first book when I was 14. I still have it. It’s adorably naive… romance, teens. And it’s just lovely. It’s high school. And if I read it now, I still get the fuzzies cause it’s so cute and sweet. I have kept writing ever since, but my challenge was that I needed to transition from writing in Dutch to writing in English. That took me a couple of years to get to a command of the English language, where I was comfortable enough to write in and then practice enough where I had the self confidence to publish, which as you know, is scary as hell. Yeah. So I have probably written, I want to say about 20 books before I ever published my first and most of those are male/female romances.
When I read MM romance, I was like, okay, this is my genre. I connect with the genre. This is what I want to write. At that time I still identified as straight. I was still married. My husband came out as gay, so we had that whole, that was parallel, which in hindsight is amazing if you think about it. M/m romance helped me identify that my husband was gay. He knew, but we hadn’t had that conversation yet. And for me, it was very fitting that I would write in the genre. So we got a divorce. We’re still, you know, we co-parent, we’re great friends. He has a boyfriend.
I’m super happy for him. But writing m/m romance also helped me in my own journey come to, okay, this is the label that I’m comfortable with. I am asexual. Okay. This fits me. I am pan romantic. This is what fits me. And that’s been a wonderful journey Writing MM romance it definitely has helped me.
I’m super grateful to be here in the genre and every time I get a message from a reader that my books have helped them identify who they are, it just makes me so grateful.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s awesome. I love those stories where like, just writing the genre and reading the genre has such a impact to life in general.
Nora: It really does. And, it’s one of the reasons why it bothers me when people are very dismissive about the genre, they characterize it, especially when it’s written by women as fetishization of gay men, which you may have a point for some of the sub genres on some of the books, I’m not denying that, but to paint the whole genre with that brush to me, I don’t think you do justice to the impact that these books have on the people who read them and on the people who write them, aside from the fact that to say that most of the, you know, the women who write gay romance are cis straight women, is absolutely not true. Even if they, you know, maybe publicly identify as straight.
That doesn’t mean they are. I identified as straight for a long time. Turns out I’m not. Everybody comes out at their own pace at their own timing, and some may never have the safety to do so. It’s all good. So let’s not judge people by the label that we have to carry to the outside world. I’m not out publicly to a lot of people, because I have my personal life and my writing life separate.
I kind of have that luxury. And for some people it’s not smart to come out and I respect that. So yeah, little tangent there. Okay.
Jeff: No good tangent though. Do you remember what your gateway book to MM was from a reading standpoint?
Nora: Yes. J. R. Ward, “The Black Dagger Brotherhood” series. I don’t know if you’ve ever read it.
Jeff: I have not, but I’ve heard a lot of people comment about that series.
Nora: It’s set in the part of New York where I live, which is, you know, part of the fun and it’s m/f romance for the most part. It’s vampires. It’s super sexy. It’s hot, it’s violent. It’s got a bigger plot and she’s everything I love about books is in that series. Again, power dynamics, she plays with those. And then all of a sudden, she introduced an m/m couple and she kinda hinted at their story in the previous books. And I, coming from, we’re going to laugh at this, but originally a very conservative, evangelical background. I was like, I’m not sure if I want to read a male/male romance. Like, I’m not sure I’m going to like that. And I read that. I was like, Holy shit. I didn’t know this was a thing. And I went on Amazon and I went down the rabbit hole and the rabbit hole was deep and wide. Yeah. That, just that one book, I wrote her a thank you letter. I really did because I think it’s absolutely amazing and courageous that an author of her statue, of her fame, took such gamble in publishing an MM romance in the midst of an MF series. And I know she had to compromise. It wasn’t the story that she really wanted to tell. Her publishers, you know, put a lot of pressure on her as we later found out to, you know, lower the number of sex scenes and to change some things.
But the fact that she still did it, I think it was incredibly brave and courageous. And without that book, I’m not sure when I would have found the genre. So yeah, lots of gratitude there.
Jeff: Wow. That’s very cool. And speaking of books, what’s the last book you read that you’re really wild about?
Nora: Oh my gosh. I’ve been on a good reading streak lately. I’ve blazed my way through, May Archer’s backlist, which I absolutely loved her last book, “Off Plan.” It’s set in Florida on a key, is absolutely phenomenal.
I can’t wait to read her last release with the Lucy Lennox, which should be really good. I have the privilege of beta reading for Kyleen who has a new book, just released “Hardwood,” which was absolutely phenomenal. That series is so much fun.
Jeff: Will loves that series.
Nora: You know, a lot of people, I think with everything that has happened, need a lighter and fluffier read and that series just delivers. It’s fun. It’s sexy. It’s, you know, not too heavy. And, I think she did a phenomenal job with that. Other than that, I reread the whole, “His Boy Next Door” series. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it’s BSDM, dom/sub ,sometimes a little daddy vibe. It’s so good. So good. So many books, not enough time.
Jeff: So now that “Irresistible Omegas” is done, what do we have to look forward to in the rest of 2020 from you?
Nora: I have a new series planned that I can’t say too much about yet, but it’s a contemporary series with a suspense elements that I think readers are really going to love. I had originally planned to release it earlier in the year, but with the coronavirus hitting, I thought it wasn’t the right timing for this. And in hindsight, I’m glad I waited just a little, it’s going to be a lot of fun. This is one of the few series I’ve really plotted. I’ve done a lot of research for, I plotted this. So, I’m super excited to share with my readers what’s coming, but I can’t say too much yet. Don’t want to spoil the surprise.
Jeff: Well, Nora, what’s the best way for everyone to keep up with you online ?
Nora: Facebook is basically my second home. So, that’s the best way to hang out with me. My Facebook group is called Nora’s Nook. We have almost 4,000 members by now and it’s my happy place. My readers, I call them my Nookies, which is, you know, a little wink wink there. They’re amazing. And it’s a very warm and supportive place where, you know, we talk about books, but also about life where people get to share, you know, what’s on our minds and seek support and we have fun take over. So that’s really my happy place. I’m on Twitter, but I do warn that that is very political, that’s true for everybody these days on Twitter, I am unapologetically political on Twitter.
So if that’s not your thing just don’t follow me. Cause, I think it’s important to speak up. I don’t think that art and politics are separated. I speak up a lot there. If that’s not your thing, then you may want to skip that I’m on Instagram as noraphoenix. I have a Patreon where you can check me out.
That’s about it, I guess. Oh my newsletter. Yes. The weekly deals. How can I forget? Noralinks.com, which is every Saturday I release a new weekly deals, the best new releases in gay romance and 99 cents deals and freebies. So noralinks.com every Saturday. And that’s stacking that, you know, TBR pile for a bargain that was the sales pitch.
Jeff: Well, Nora, it’s been so awesome talking to you. I’m glad you came to the podcast to tell us all about these good things.
Nora: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me. I always enjoy talking to you.
Here’s the text of this week’s reviews:
The Holiday Mix Up by Avery Ford. Reviewed by Will.
For writer Nate, a trip to the Adirondacks the week before Christmas to review a new upscale resort seems like a dream assignment. Until a mix-up places him in the honeymoon suite with his arch rival, fellow newspaper columnist Cole.
When a snowstorm prevents them from finding other accommodations, they decide to play nice for the duration. A night spent talking and drinking too much champagne leads to a very sexy encounter in their large luxurious hotel bed. They spent the rest of their days enjoying the resort amenities (like a relaxing couple’s massage) and their nights exploring the sizzling chemistry they can no longer deny.
Their assignment at an end, they part ways. Later, in Nate’s published review, he speaks of the deep emotional connection he experienced with his unintentional Honeymoon suite roommate.
It was more than just a fling for Cole as well. He rushes to Nate’s office, confesses his true feelings and takes him on a Christmas carriage ride through central park. A happily ever after just in time for Christmas.
I really loved this enemy to lovers tale, especially the snarky banter between the two heroes early on as they try to navigate the awkwardness of being forced together in such a romantic setting. Nate and Cole are a super sweet couple that also know how to bring the holiday heat.
Second Chance at Christmas by Avery Ford. Reviewed by Will.
Blake has spent two days driving from LA to visit his family for the holidays. Cooper, Blake’s new puppy isn’t feeling well after the car ride, so his first stop in his small Kansas hometown is the vet who, as it turns out, is Toby, the boy he left behind.
There’s still a spark between them, even after all these years, and dinner with Blake’s family ends with a tender kiss good night.
The next day, they catch up over lunch and, for the first time ever, Toby takes the day off for some afternoon delight. The sex is full of passion. They’re falling in love all over again, but Toby puts on the brakes, declining a to spend Christmas with Blake and his parents. He tells himself it’s the only way to minimize the pain of Blake leaving again.
But with the help of Cooper the puppy, Blake tells Toby that he’s not throwing away their second chance, and he’s staying in Kansas. Their Christmas day is spent celebrating with food, family, gifts and ugly holiday sweaters. Blake and Toby end up together, as it was always meant to be.