Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonJeff and Will reveal the September Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection: St. Nacho’s by Z.A. Maxfield. They also talks about Jeff’s appearance on the Best Book Ever Podcast and about their love of Schitt’s Creek.

Will reviews Andre by Jayce Ellis and Jeff reviews Wrangled by Daryl Banner.

Jeff introduces part of a conversation he had with author LaQuette about reading and writing marginalized characters in romance as a result of a workshop he took with her.

Andy Gallo talks about the Harrison Campus series he writes with Anyta Sunday. He shares how he and Anyta got together and have evolved the series over the past decade. Andy also discusses collaborations he’s working on with BA Tortuga and Meghan Maslow as well as the fantasy books he writes as Andrew Q. Gordon.

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Show Notes

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Jump to Book Reviews

Interview Transcript – LaQuette

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LaQuette: It’s not something that’s just for authors, it’s also…because authors are readers too. Many of us start writing because of what we read. And when you’re reading, again, you’re taking in all of this information and you’re processing it. Well, if you don’t have a frame of reference for, right, if you don’t know any marginalized people in your real day-to-day personal life, then you don’t really have a frame of reference for what that community is like. And then to want to read it then, it seems strange, they seem foreign and you question whether, you know, this is something that would really be.

And the truth of the matter is you don’t come to mainstream romance thinking those things, you don’t question those things. Because it’s automatically assumed that by the whiteness of the characters, the straightness of the characters, as well as the author, that there is a level of competence expected, right. But when marginal lives people write, there’s the scrutiny that’s applied to their work through readers because they’re looking for things that will tell them that this is not true, right. Because in their heads, they know these people to be one thing. But when the author actually from that community is writing it, and they’re reading it, it doesn’t connect with what they think they know about people’s communities and experiences. And so, it can be very jarring for a reader to pick up a book.

I once had someone tell me…the person meant it as a compliment but it really wasn’t. It was like, “Oh my God, LaQuette, I read your book and like, I loved it. Like, it didn’t seem like a black book.” Wow, what does a black book seem like to you? And people don’t recognize that. The thread that connects us all is our humanity, right. And so, what we’re really fighting against is not necessarily, you know, people’s beliefs about this or that. What we’re fighting about is people acknowledging our humanity and validating our humanity.

And when you are from the dominant culture, your existence is validated in every part of life right. You turn on the TV what do you see? White straight people, right. You read a book, what do you see? White straight people and enabled people. You see these things constantly in every medium, right, in literature, in film, and television, in the theater. Like, you see this over and over and over again, and we’re repeatedly told, this is the standard. If you can’t be this, then you are somehow substandard or abnormal. And we don’t realize that, like, we really don’t recognize that.

But if you kind of look at things in life…I forget the name of the researcher, but there was a researcher who took small children, gave children a white doll and a black doll. And they all chose, black children included, they all chose to play with the white doll. Because the white doll was what they had seen, they’ve been told was beautiful and pretty. And so, that’s what they believed beautiful and pretty looked like, white. And so, if we keep creating these images of love, only, you know, look in a certain way, with people who look a certain way, or who identify a certain way, or who are able to do things a certain way, or who think a certain way. When we do that, what we’re saying is everything else is abnormal, and you somehow are broken because you can’t meet this standard. You somehow are not as valuable because you can’t meet this standard.

And we have to get past that in order to…Like, I read a book and I don’t look at the characters and go “Okay, this is gonna be a good book because white people are on the front of the cover.” Like, I don’t. I read the blurb. Well, I’m actually kind of like…I’m really in love with covers. So, if you give me a good cover with, you know, people on it that look like they are about to rip each other’s clothes off, I’m good with that. I don’t really care who they are. I’m good with that, all right. But if you can convince me that these two, three, or however many people involved should be together and you create a really good story, I’m buying in.

And that’s another part of the issue that marginalized people are taught to uphold the dominant standard, right. We’re taught to understand it, we’re taught to engage with it. But the opposite is not true. So, I read white romance for years, right, but there are still white people in 2020, who have never read a book by an author who is a person of color. There are heterosexual people who have never picked up a book that features LGBTQ plus couples. Still, 2020 and we still have people who have never read outside of what they consider the normal. And that is telling, it’s telling why this industry is so slow to become more diverse and inclusive because people get to self-segregate, and then get to continue to read the same things they wanna read.

And they, you know, like…they chalk it up to, “I like what I like,” right. Which, you know, to some degree, we all have a thing we like. But when you like that, to the exclusion of everything else, you have to ask why. Like, why is the question that will always yield the most answers.

Jeff: Yeah, to me, it should be…I like second chance romances and that can include everybody.

LaQuette: Exactly.

Jeff: But to narrow it down to the people that are in them, that’s problematic.

LaQuette: It’s weird like when you say it out loud, it’s weird. When you say it out loud, it’s very weird. And I think that that’s one of the reasons why I teach this course is I want for people to be able to say those things out loud so they can hear themselves. Or read rather their own words and realize, wow, I put that out there and, like, I wrote those sentences. And I don’t know if I actually meant that, but I’m looking at what I said and that’s, kind of, you know, out there. Like, maybe I might wanna rethink that. Like, why do I think that?

And it doesn’t make you a bad person. And that’s one of the things I try to get people to understand day one on class. This is a safe space, we’re not going to chastise you, we’re not here to make you feel unwelcome or to badger you. But it’s not gonna be easy, I’m not going to lie to you, right, I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m going to give you the opportunity to say what you have to say but then I’m going to tell you why that’s problematic. And that’s the only way you will learn. And it’s a process, right, like, my class is the start, it’s not the end it, it’s the start, the beginning of the journey. It’s the moment you start asking questions about…you know, you’re thinking about things beyond the superficial.

And, like, someone raised the point of, in a Joanna Shupe book, the individual didn’t care for how the white man has to come in and save the heroin when a black man was standing there, and she couldn’t understand why Joanna chose to do that. Now, I hadn’t read the book but instantly, I knew why Joanna chose to do that because we’re talking about the Gilded Age, slavery hadn’t been, you know, over 100 years at that point. You know, a black man putting his hands on a white person for any reason, could have ended in his death.

But that never even crossed that reader’s mind. It never occurred to her that there’s a real reason why this man would not interfere when he saw a white man attacking a white woman. Like, why wouldn’t he…he should jump in, why did he have to wait for the hero? Because, in reality, he would have…regardless of whether he was right or wrong, regardless of him saving this woman, regardless of her standing up for him and saying he did it, because, you know, this man was gonna kill me. He still would have been either arrested or killed because of it.

But that is the luxury that people from dominant culture have. They don’t have to think about these things because the world is built for them. And so, when you read, you have to be conscious of these things. You have to ask, why, why is this happening? Why did this author choose to do this? What can I…You know, the point of reading is not just to read to consume, but to read to question. To read to kind of understand what’s going on because you’re not just trying to read, you’re also trying to comprehend. And I think people in the enjoyment of reading romance, they kind of forget to still be thinking critically about what they’re reading as they’re reading.

Interview Transcript – Andy Gallo

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Jeff: Andy, welcome to the podcast. It is so good to have you here.

Andy: Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff: So we are talking about the “Harrison Campus” series. You and Anyta Sunday released the third book in that series earlier this month. And before we dig in to “Better Be True” tell us what this series is about for those who may not be familiar.

Andy: So we started this, believe it or not the story of this thing started about nine years ago, we started with the first book and it was sort of like a short story we wrote for the Gay Authors website. And then, I mean, you look at the original and you look at what the finished product was and they’re just light years apart. But we started it, we shelved it.

We both went on to different places in our careers. Like I wrote fantasy, she delved into straight m/m. So then we came back to him. He said, look well, It’s a one off, what can we do? And so we decided that we were going to expand it into the entire Campus series. So the whole series revolves around this fictional campus named after president Benjamin Harrison.

And it was just like trying to come up with a backstory. So the founder of the university was friends with the president. So the connection between all three books is that Harrison campuses where at least one of them, all the main characters went to school there. And so then it’s just different couples through their different things that happened to them to get to their happy ever after

Jeff: And what’s going on in “Better Be True.”

Andy: So that one was sort of, that’s the least connected to the campus. We started on campus and they moved to Philadelphia, which is kind of where I was. I grew up and since the university is in Pennsylvania, supposedly it was nice, easy segue into there. Two students both have change of plans and end up in Philadelphia.

They both went on there. They can’t afford to live on their own so they ended up through like, you know, university hosting message board. They get together and they agree to room together. And it turns out that the double bed to single beds that were put together that could be two single beds had been replaced by a King size bed, unbeknownst to them until they get there. And so then as this happens and as he goes along, Luke runs into his ex and Nico sort of steps up and pretends the first time to be his boyfriend. And then when Nico needs the favor, Luke steps up.

And so it just like this one after another, until they finally realize it’s not really faking so much anymore.

Jeff: Fake boyfriend is such a favorite trope.

Andy: You know, I didn’t know that when I wrote it, but it was just kind of an interesting, you know, it was when we wrote it together, we just said, Oh, what about this?

Jeff: And then combining that with Anyta, cause I know Anyta loves the slow burn, you know, you put a slow burn and a fake boyfriend together and it’s kind of gold,

Andy: right? It does. It does. That trope definitely works for the slow burn. And it does that. And book two, was rivals/enemies to lovers coming in.

It’s another one of those that you kind of take a while to figure out that, okay. You’re not so bad after all.

Jeff: Tracking back the nine years when you wrote the original, how did the idea come up?

Andy: So when they were doing this contest, it was like the dark ages of m/m romance, right?

And so what we did was we thought about what we wanted to write.

And we both said, you know what will sell best, a contemporary. And so we tried to come up with a story and then we started with a fraternity, which was Jackson Murphy was in the fraternity and then the boyfriend was not.

I will say this. I love the process with Anyta. She’s so brilliant. She really is just her thought process is just so brilliant working with her. And so we threw out some ideas and she kind of ran with this and then I pushed that way.

And then she ran with this idea and then I just kind of supplied some of the US college information and we kind of came together.

Jeff: And you mentioned that it’s light and day where the first book ended up from the first collaboration and making the first story to where it is now. What was the evolution like to continue to work on it and spruce it up to become the foundation of a series?

Andy: So we put it aside for probably about five years. We revisited it back in like 2015, 2016. Shelved it again. it evolved because, you know, like we learned so much.

These are the things you needed in a romance. I mean, Jeff, when we wrote this whole trope stuff, the whole dual point of view character was not a big thing. And so of the three books. This is more literary than romancey. See if I can use that word. You know, we had the Foster brother best friends, romance is kind of woven into that, the best female friend and her new romance.

It was very literary in the sense that it had all the different, like subplots and everything got tied up and there were no loose ends, and it was the romance, which was the strong point, but it didn’t follow any of the tried and true tropes . We didn’t really try and hit the tropes when we wrote it, we tried to hit the story, which obviously if we were rewriting it today, it would look more like books two and three, but it just evolved.

I mean, just more sex, less non romantic elements. So we added more romantic elements, took out some of the non, more dates, fewer interactions between the brothers.

Jeff: More romance forward, I guess.

Andy: Right. Somebody told me every scene should promote the romance in romance.

Every scene should forward the romance. And we had a number of scenes that didn’t really forward the romance in the original version. Because we didn’t really know that we were writing in 2010, 2011.

Jeff: How did it feel to create a series from what started out as essentially this contest entry?

Andy: You know, that was one of the fun parts of it because we’ve tried to look and see, okay, well, who else has story? Who could we write? And so really when we wrote book one, we didn’t have an idea to put a second person. So when we went back and we wrote it, we figured out, okay, which of these other characters can we start the next series on?

And so that’s where Darren came from. What I like about it was is that we were able to just build on the universe that we’d started. So it was a lot easier doing two and three, because in our heads, we already knew what the campus looked like and who is this?

And where’d the background from the campus come from and who had started… all the little pieces that we had, like our little Bible. So it was an interesting, it was almost like writing my fantasy series because, instead of having a whole new world, we just had this whole little universe that we had created. And then we had backstory already.

Jeff: How did you and Anyta come together for collaboration? Cause obviously this goes back years now since round one of this happened so long ago.

Andy: So we met on the Gay Authors website and we just sort of got to know each other. We were like friends on that.

And then the contest came up and she approached me and said, you know, I’d really like to enter this and I want to enter it with you. I’m like, okay. And then her husband got transferred from Germany to Pittsburgh. And I live North of DC in the suburbs. So it’s like a four and a half hour drive.

So she used to come down and we worked on it together in my house. They were in a hotel at one point and, you know, that’s how it came together. We were able to sit down and actually talk, which I think probably cemented our friendship better. Yeah, just actually having spent that time together, seeing her husband, her kid, her oldest was like three at the time and her youngest wasn’t born then. We started online and then we actually met in person and then from there, we’ve just stayed in touch ever since sort of like if you wrote with somebody who lived across town, you probably wouldn’t sit with them every day and write. And that was sort of it, she was in Pittsburgh and I was in Maryland and we actually got together and sat down and worked it out together.

And just, it was just even if it was just the last bits, like the edits and things, you know, there’s final drafts and stuff. We were able to sit down together, you can see someone’s facial expressions. When you say something and they’re like, I just killed your baby. What’s wrong.

You know? So it was easier to figure out, her emotions and her to figure out mine where I was coming from and stuff.

Jeff: How has the collaboration evolved over the years?

Andy: I would say very little in some ways. We do the same things now that we did. Then we start with an outline and we start with an idea. I think the only thing that’s, one of the things that’s changed is we have better technology. I mean, back then we were doing it on like a Google hangout chat and, you know, trying to scroll through and find out what did you say?

And you’re going to, you know, you’re trying to go find it. It was hard. Now we just like cut and paste into a word doc, and now we can do it like on, yeah, we can do Skype. We can talk and type it out and we can share the screens. So that sort of piece has changed. We still sit down and we map out our, we have like our broad story first, and then we map out scenes and then we map out individuals in the scenes what’s going on and then we put it together.

And I think the one thing that has changed is that I typically write the rough drafts now. And she takes it from there. Whereas in the past we would swap off chapters. And what we found was that it was easier to get the rough draft out and then she would change it up and then we would work. And then once we had that version, the two of us would go back and kind of smooth out the pieces that like, I don’t like this part, but I like this.

And she’d be like, I don’t like this part, but I like this. And so we smooth out where we needed to be. So that was like the other change. That’s taken places that we’ve sort of let me do the rough draft and then her take her stab at it. And then we come together and try and do it individually chapters one by one.

Jeff: How much discovery writing is there in that for you? Is there a space to make stuff up as you go? Or is it plotted so tightly that it becomes more like filling in the meat of things?

Andy: No. And yes, because in the one hand there is no, I mean, we have like the outline that we’re doing.

Right. And so that is sort of, yeah, that’s sort of tight in the sense that it’s what we agreed to. As I’m writing stuff, things just don’t work. Like, you know, we think about it. Oh, it’s a great idea. And we’re like, okay, let’s go. And you start to write. And you’re like, man, this is boring.

Or man, this doesn’t work or man, this is a problem. And so then we go, so I can at that point, typically what I will do because we have such, we have the time zone difference. Sometimes what I’ll do is I will write something and send it off and then, and say, what do you think of this? So,

Jeff: And that helps because she is in Europe.

So by the time you wake up, she’s probably already read it. That could be very handy.

Andy: Yeah. And it does because sometimes when she comes back with her comments, I can look at them and say like, okay, I see that. Or no. And here’s why. And so it’s really been. Great working with her because she doesn’t have like this.

I mean, she’s definitely light years above me in this writing field, but she doesn’t have this ego. And so she listens. And then of course, usually I end up agreeing with her, but she doesn’t have this I’m right. You’re wrong attitude. She like, sometimes she just has to let me painfully figure it out.

And she lets me come along until I get to where she needs me to be. So it’s really been great working with her that way.

Jeff: Is this your first collaboration?

Andy: Well, yes, it was the first one I ever, I mean, she and I were the first one and I haven’t really published anything with anybody else yet.

Although there’s a couple in the works.

Jeff: That’s cool. anything you’d like to share to folks to get them interested in? Yeah,

Andy: considering that my coauthor already put it on her newsletter. BA Tortuga and I are writing a Western series together.

Jeff: Oh, fantastic.

Andy: You know, I was never a fan of westerns until I started reading hers.

I was like such a fan of hers and I approached her and I said, Hey, would you be interested in this? And she said, yes. And I was just like running around the house, like, Oh my God, my husband thought it was crazy.

Jeff: So what’s it been like for you pivoting to westerns from, you know, contemporary college campus?

Andy: You know, I, it’s interesting because she has to kind of bring it along into that genre somewhat. Right. And so, like, not both, but you know, typically in a lot of these westerns, one character is not as Western as the other. And so the hard part with writing that collaboration is she writes very differently than Anyta and I wrote.

She likes it. I have my character, you have your character. I write my chapter. You look at it. You write your chapter. So we have like a very, we don’t have near the same, like outlining that we do. So it’s a different, I mean, it works. but it’s different.

Jeff: That’s exciting. Looking forward to getting to read that when they come out, for sure.

With “Harrison Campus,” do you foresee more books in this universe?

Andy: Yes. We’re actually working on book four, which has had a number of stops and starts because I started it, I didn’t like it, I’d send it back to her and then we try and work it out. And then I try again and I’m like, I still didn’t like it.

And so finally we sat down, I guess it was in the last, like two weeks we had two or three Skype chats that lasted over an hour where we kind of hammered it out. The only thing that’s the same is that we’re using the same main character from book three that we’d always planned to write. And, so other than that, the whole story is different. It’s one of these older brother boyfriend kind of things, you know, best friend/brother sort of thing . And I had trouble with that. I really did.

I had trouble with initially with it because it’s just sort of like the whole, well it’s written, you can’t date your best friend’s brother. That was sort of like, that was initially the impediment and it was like, this really doesn’t work and she’s like, no, it doesn’t.

So we came up with a better scenario for the story. And then there’s another one after that, which we haven’t quite decided whether we’re going to make that book five or make it sort of like a spinoff series, because that one sort of follows a character from book three.

But it follows him in Philadelphia. So we’re not sure what we’re gonna do with that yet.

Jeff: Spin off and expand the universe,

Andy: correct? Yes. And I mean some of the same characters, but yeah, it would be a different link for the books. It would no longer be the Harrison campus because no one’s going to be on the campus.

Jeff: What got you started writing and into storytelling?

Andy: So. Honestly, I needed to, I needed a hobby. I remember it so clearly we were in our old house in Virginia. And I’m not a TV fan. Like I’m just not, I don’t enjoy it. I have too short of an attention span, so I go to watch it and I’ll get up and then I’ll come back and be missing things. So my husband’s like, look, you need a hobby. It’s like, you need a hobby, you wanted to write. I started writing in college. I gave it up. When I went to law school, I gave it up when I was, you know, starting to prosecute. And it was just like, you know, anything about being a prosecutor it’s intense at times, at least until you really get to the point where you’re old, you know, old hand at it. And so this was sort of a way for me to decompress too, you know, it’s something to do while he watched television. Cause that was his way of decompressing at times spending, if we’re not going out, I would just see what he had his shows that he watched and I was just not interested.

So that was how I actually started with the fantasy series and I just write it, print it out at work, give it to him to read. I remember we moved here to Maryland, right near the university of Maryland. And for whatever reason the story came to head about like college students, I’m like, alright, what the hell?

They’re all like right here. So I wrote that contemporary and that’s the stuff I posted on gay authors that I met Anita through.

Jeff: I like how you came to it a little later . so many people we talked to, you know, they’ve always written, and like how you kind of came back to it, starting as the decompression for things that’s a cool story.

Andy: Now once you get into them, when you get knee deep into it, it sort of adds to stress level when it shouldn’t, you know, once you get to that level.

Jeff: Especially if you’re on deadlines and people are waiting for your pages, it takes the hobbyist out of it for sure.

Andy: Right. It does.

Jeff: You started in fantasy. So now are you working, are you still doing fantasy alongside the romance and the westerns and things?

Andy: I write under Andrew Q. Gordon for my fantasy. And when I finished that series, I kind of was like, I think that there was another book, right? Because it’s sort of like Lord of the rings once you kill Sauron what’s next, right? I mean, who are you gonna create another bad guy just to like, kind of save the world again. It gets kind of old.

So I didn’t really see the next story in it. And somebody who is a fan, I got an email and just said, here, look, this is an idea for the next story. Do you have fan fiction? I’m like, no, but I mean, I talked to him about it. I’m like, I really liked this idea. Can I run with it? And he’s like, yeah.

And so what I learned from him, which was really interesting is that, especially with high fantasy, you don’t always have to save the whole universe. Sometimes it can be just about the character development. And so you can have like a smaller individual. Life or death situation that can be just as compelling as the overarching save the world.

So I’m kind of fiddling with that, but I mean, I need to, and I have been really working harder on the contemporary and then I’m allowed to give shout outs, right. Sure.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Andy: Megan Maslow is a really good friend of mine. She and I live fairly close and back before we were forced to quarantine, we used to meet for lunch and she convinced me to work on her shared universe that she’s planning.

So I take a paranormal romance. So that’s going to be like an Andy Gallo book because it’s going to be more romance and lighter on the fantasy. Whereas Andrew Q. Gordon is fantasy that has some gay characters. So sort of that sort of like a bridge to the two that’s in between, but the romance, but the fantasy element.

So that might end up being my true love because like get to do both.

Jeff: We’ve talked about essentially three different stories here between Megan’s universe and what you’re working on with BA and book four in “Harrison Campus.” Do you actually work on multiple books at one time or is it like I’m finishing this, and then I’m going to do this, and then I’m going to do that.

Andy: The interesting thing is because Anita and I live in such different time zones because Anita has her own deadlines and other things I’ll put stuff together and then I’ll be like, okay, I need you to read this. And she’s like, okay. But I have these other things first and it’s okay.

I put it aside and then I can go work on something else. BA sort of doing the same thing. She has other works in place. And so we typically, I put like one and day, a week or one or two days a week to that story. And then I, the rest stays with the other story. I have not really worked on Meghan’s universe. I haven’t worked on that book that much. I have an outline, she and I’ve talked about it, but I’m not doing three at once. I’m just not.

Jeff: That would make my head short circuit.

Andy: It’s hard to remember which voice you’re in when you do that. So that’s why I’m not doing that.

Jeff: And eventually you’ll come back perhaps to Andrew Q. Gordon as well and work on that story sometime.

Andy: Whenever I’m contemporaried out or I’m not really feeling the romance right now. Cause you know, as you know, it’s hard right now. I’ve got, my daughter is home 24 seven. My husband has always worked at home. So he’s not thrilled with having us here 24 seven interrupts is. And so there are times when I’m just not feeling romantic. And so the romance isn’t there. So I’ll sometimes just go pick that apart and it just pick that up for a little bit. And I mean, I’ve got maybe 2000 words into that story, so it’s like, as you can see, I’m not doing a whole lot into it right now.

Jeff: I guess it’s kind of cool that you can escape into whatever universe you want to in the moment between the projects.

Andy: Yeah, because sometimes I really do feel more like writing or just dealing with fantasy, which has, I like to create something new. And when I say create something, no, I’m not. I mean, that’s mine, right?

I don’t know if you’ve ever written fantasy that’s yours. I mean, “Harrison Campus” is yours. Yeah. But it’s sort of like built in this world. So you’re still constricted to this, all the things that happen now. Whereas my fantasy worlds I’m God,

Jeff: right? Yeah. I’ve never taken the leap on fantasy cause having to do the whole world building thing and build the universe, I just don’t know that I could take that leap and do it.

Andy: It was hard. I mean, where I got lucky, where I was is that because I had started, when my husband had talked me into picking up a hobby, I was literally almost 2 million words into that story before I started it even pared down to publish it. So by the time I really went back and started rewriting book one, I already had a million and a half, almost 2 million words.

I knew that world before I really started to write it, which was incredibly helpful. Because I had written myself in about 17 different boxes in book one that had to, you know, or that changed over the scope of the story. And so then when I went back, I already knew where the story was going.

Right. And so that was incredibly helpful having like, you know, okay, well, this didn’t happen. Magic didn’t work quite like that. I thought it didn’t the first time. And if you do that, Well then why can’t, why, how does that, if you can do this over here, why can’t you do this over here and just solve the problem at the end to fix those things?

Jeff: That’s a lot of words to deal with to having a couple million words to pare down.

Andy: There weren’t very good words all the time.

Jeff: With all this writing going on that you’ve had, what have you actually been reading over the summer that you might recommend to our listeners?

Andy: So, I’ve tried to catch up on a few of the stories that, you know, BA Tortuga wrote, cause I’m trying to write books with her and I really liked “Cowboy’s Law”. I think that was sort of like her, I don’t wanna say coming out because she’s been so known in the world, but it was probably one of her bestselling books. So I think it introduced her to a lot and expanded the reach of the people that she has been reading. I’m currently reading “After Felix” by Lily Morton just because it struck me as a, that’s a good cover. I liked the cover guy, but it’s a great book.

Jeff: So some good stuff there. Lily Morton very high on my to read list. Cause I love her work and it’s always so fun. Good escapism.

Andy: Her characters are just… I think she would call them cheeky.

I think

Jeff: I would too. Yes.

Andy: That’s the word for it? I’m just like, wow. This is really, it’s different from a lot of people I read.

So that’s what makes it great.

Jeff: Yeah, for sure. So we’ve, again, we’ve talked about a lot of different work what’s coming out next. What looks like it’s going to be the first thing out the door coming up?

Andy: The only thing I know for sure is that I committed to putting something out in March with Megan Maslow’s universe series.

So I think that might be the next one, but we spent so much time, you know, for me it was a process learning how to put books out by myself. These were the first really true releases I did on my own. And then we committed to do three within 65 days. We thought it would be better to do the whole series.

Like we had it mostly written . So then we had to start figuring out the whole process and getting it edited and covers and lining up the voice actor for the audio books and all that stuff. And so then it started to hit and then we had to promo it.

And then as soon as you finished that one, the next one came and you had promo that. And then the next one can get to promo that. So I don’t know that anything’s going to come out from me for another eight, nine months, but then again, it might be like another wave, because by that point I’ve had all these things that I have been writing, and that should be much closer to release.

Jeff: Book one of “Harrison Campus” is on audio book. What was it like having a book of yours flipped over to audio and it’s done by Nick Russo, who’s one of my favorites out there in the m/m world. What was it like hearing your words translated in that format?

Andy: It was incredible because by the time we started the audio book, I was so tired of this series. You know, we’d written it, we edited it, we re-edited it. We proof read it. I don’t know how other people do it, but I’m horrible proofreader.

And so what I have to do is I have to literally read each word out loud. To see if I can catch things. And I did. This was after other people proofed it and after edited and stuff. So by the time it got to Nick, I was so over it. And then, and then he did it, and he started giving me this thing and I’m like, wow, I really like this again.

It brought the joy back into the story. I mean, that’s just the best way to say it. I was like really excited for it again, after just listening to, and he’s so good with the way he does it. And shout out to Nick. He’s just amazing to work with. He’s so easy to work with. And he’s just, I mean, he made it easy for me because it was our first time.

Cause they don’t do ACX in Germany. So Anyta really can’t get her books out on her own. She has to work through a service. So, it was our first time doing it. Nick was just wonderful with it.

Jeff: Do we get the other books in the series over time?

Andy: It depends on ACX they’re really horrible with this, but yes, they’re all.

We, when I contacted Nick, I contracted all three books for him. Two is already with, ACX waiting for their quality review. It took almost three months for them to get the first book out. We were anticipating like 30 days. Yeah. He is actually recording book three right now. He should have that done towards the end of August, beginning of September. .

Jeff: So what’s the best way for folks to keep up with you online and keep up with when the next audio books come out and all of these releases you’ve got coming out over the next year or so?

Andy: So for Anyta, her group is called a Slow Burn Sunday. And that’s usually the best way she’s pretty active in it. you can get all her links there. is her website. She has a newsletter, she’s giving out like a whole bunch of free books in there. So if you haven’t signed up, go to her website, and link up with her in her newsletter or join her group,

And for me, Andy Gallo is my website, I’m in the process of getting the whole, you know, I haven’t really in this whole process of being a real author, it’s hard sometimes. So I’m getting aligned in websites being redesigned and right now, and once they finish that, I will have a newsletter at that point, but I have a reader group it’s called Gallorious Readers, which is sort of a play on Andy Gallo or just my email,

Jeff: Excellent. We will link to all of that in the show notes. So people can find the books and the websites and the reader groups and everything else. Andy, thank you so much for spending some time and telling us about “Harrison Campus” and everything else you’re working on.

Andy: Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate it.

Book Reviews

Here’s the text of this week’s reviews:

Andre by Jayce Ellis. Reviewed by Will.
I read something this past week that was so deeply romantic and satisfying. It made me very, very happy. It was exactly what I needed, which I know is something that I’ve been saying a lot, especially about the books that I’ve talked about this past summer. Considering what the world has been going through, finding that perfect romantic read is something special and I think it needs to be celebrated. So I’m going to try to encapsulate all my thoughts and all my love of Andre by Jayce Ellis.

It’s the wonderful story of our main character, Andre. He’s a hardworking guy who decides to finally take a little time off. And he goes out to a club where he meets Marcus. They immediately click, talking and they do a little bit of dancing. From the get go you get a really concrete sense of the connection and the chemistry that these two have. Marcus like leans into him and whispers all the dirty filthy things that he’s going to do to Andre and Andre goes, that sounds great. Thanks. Bye. And he leaves.

Thankfully, he’s waiting outside the club and he asked Marcus, did you really mean what you said?And Marcus says, “Oh yeah.” So they go back to Andre’s place and they hook up. It is wild and it is crazy. It is hot and it is amazing.

Now, this is a traditional romance setup that Slade James from likes to call “meet sleazy” instead of “meet cute.” It’s where our two characters hookup like right away. If you love this particular romantic convention, as much as I do, you know exactly what’s going to happen next.

Andre runs a boutique financial services company. It’s essentially just him, but he has the opportunity to pitch a really large influential client. As part of that pitch, he’s going to take on an intern from a large financial firm, one that he previously worked for. Guess who that intern is? Yeah, you guessed right. It’s Marcus. and when Marcus first sees Andre, he’s kind of taken aback obviously, but he’s also a little pissed off.

He’s like, “What’s this about? Are you playing me?” Of course, Andre is not playing him.

Each of them, for their own separate reasons, really needs this particular pitch to go very, very well. So they decide to set aside their previous experiences and work together. In that first week, they get to know and understand each other a little bit better. And there’s a lot of hard work and respect going on. Just when things are going great comes the word that their three week timeline has been cut down to two.

Andre has promised his parents that he’s going to fly down to Florida for the weekend for his dad’s 70th birthday. So the plan is that Marcus will accompany him and work on the proposal during their downtime. When they arrive a busy body friend of the family sees them arrive together, and knows that they’re sleeping in a single room with only one bed creating the gossip that they are more than just business acquaintances. So there’s that, that they have to deal with along with the issues that Andre has with his brother. Andre’s younger brother is a bit of a dick.

He’s kind of always teasing Andre and needling him about a wide range of things. Before they leave, Andre admits to Marcus that he’s not exactly looking forward to spending time with his family, which isn’t something he’s never actually said out loud to anyone. Presumably because they’re family and you’re just supposed to put up with that crap. But Marcus immediately says, “No, I get it. Microaggressions like that, that suck.”

And that’s just one of the many things that show how these two characters get one another. There’s this low simmering sexual tension that they have but there’s an emotional awareness as well. Marcus manages to deal with Andre’s brother in a low key, respectful way. So as not to disrupt the festivities, it’s really wonderful.

After the situation in Florida, Andre had Marcus have essentially decided to come out with their relationship. Andre tries to make things work while Marcus is still going to school while also working on this large contract. Things seem to be going along well until Marcus’s parents show up on Andre’s front doorstep. Marcus has expressed to his friend that he may not be interested in a career in finance anymore. So his parents have shown up to find out what’s going on. And if Andre is indeed some sort of bad influence that is steering Marcus away from the path that he’s so carefully chosen.

The meeting doesn’t go particularly well because Andre assures Marcus’s parents that it’s certainly not him that put this idea in Marcus’s head. This understandably causes a rift in their relationship.

After spending some time apart, they realized that they cannot and don’t want to live without one another. In their meeting with their conservative client, they decided to come clean about their relationship. Which incidentally, those people don’t have a problem with. They realize that working together and being together and loving one another is what each of them truly wants and that it was meant to be all along.

So that in a nutshell is my cursory overview of the romantic journey of Andre and Marcus. Please understand that that just barely touches the surface of what these guys experience. There’s so much good stuff I could spend the next hour talking about all of the things that I loved about this particular book not the least of which is the cast of characters that support our two heroes.

There’s Andre’s best friend who also works as his office manager. She serves as a sounding board about all of his business concerns and about his relationship with Marcus. She’s the perfect best friend she’s loving and supportive, but she’s also going to call Andre on his shit, which is kind of the person that we all need in our life.

The addition of Andre’s parents and Marcus’s parents are really, really wonderful. Those characters are really well drawn.

And I have to mention Phil. He’s Andre’s ex and is the genuine villain of the story. He works at the large financial firm that Marcus is interning for. At every turn, Phil tries to drive a wedge between the two of them and sabotage them winning the big contract. But everything he does just seems to bring our heroes closer together. At the end, there is a truly delicious scene where he gets us comeuppance. It is so deeply satisfying.

One other thing I think the author did really, really well is that both of our characters, Andre and Marcus, are dealing with different issues and ideas about being gay. What it means to be gay and masculine, which is something that I haven’t seen a whole lot of books explore. What the author manages to do is not treat it in like a very special episode kind of way. It’s not overly angsty. But it paints Andre and Marcus as very real and complex and it’s something that they can both work on together as a couple.

So I really enjoyed Andre by Jayce Ellis. It came out at the beginning of the summer and if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I highly recommend it.

Wragnled by Daryl Banner. Reviewed by Jeff.
I made my first trip to Spruce, Texas this week as I read Wrangled, the fourth book in Daryl Banner’s Spruce Texas Romance series. I loved this enemies-to-lovers story between a guy who got out of Spruce–and missed all the coming out that happened–and the one who tormented him in high school. To make it all the more interesting, it’s set at the 10 year reunion when Lance comes home and sees not only how the town has changed, but Chad too.

Lance has a bit of a reputation in town as the guy who left to make it in fashion and has done a few things to get noticed and he’s on the verge of even more. He finds out quickly that people remember him–the woman who checks him in at the hotel, the guys he runs into at the diner when he stops in for dinner upon getting back. His guard is up all the time, braced for insults, barbs or worse. But he gets none of it. People are interested in what he’s up to, how he is, how long he’s staying–even people who were among those who’d harassed him in the past.

He ends up invited to a pre-reunion event at the high school and after some hesitation he decides to show up. He’s not there very long when Chad Landry, the boy of his dreams and also the one who bullied him the most walks in. Lance doesn’t know what to do laying eyes on Chad–it’s a toss up between drinking in the man Chad’s become and being worried for what might come next.

Chad surprises him. It turns out he hoped Lance would return because he wants to talk. Not only does he want to apologize for he did, and what he allowed to happen, to Lance… he also comes out and expresses his feelings for Lance. As others in Spruce came out and got married, Lance paid attention to feelings he’d buried, realizing he too was gay.

I loved how Daryl brought Chad and Lance together. It’s far from easy as they both have a ton of baggage–not the least of which is the bullying in the past. Lance isn’t sure he can accept the apology, or if he does that he can allow himself to be with Chad. Chad, however, does everything he can to make the case that he isn’t that guy anymore and for Lance to give them a try.

There are several super cute moments, including Chad getting Lance into a wrestling singlet during the reunion dinner and some cute couple moments at the after party. Lance even decides to stay in Texas longer to see what he and Chad could be like–and it is some domestic bliss even as Lance learns a few other things about Chad along the way.

Fame and fashion design calls and soon Lance has to go back to L.A. I really enjoyed how Daryl navigated sending Lance back and how that changed the relationship with Chad and how it could evolve. The ultimate grand gesture was swoon worthy and the expected HEA was delightful.

This book’s not always easy to read with some of the bullying themes, including a bit of bullying Lance unleashes on a fellow classmate that he felt could have done better by Lance. It’s realistic, but it was uncomfortable–much like it was for the people around when Lance did it.

I need to go back to Spruce and find out about some of the other people I met in Wrangled. I can tell there’s so good stories in those previous three books–although reading Wrangled as a standalone was just fine. This was my first time to read a book by Daryl and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I like the way he tells a romance.