Spencer Spears discusses his brand new series, Rebel Hearts, which is a spin off of the Murphy Brothers series. Spencer shares why he decided to continue writing about characters living on Summersea Island, and why he loves to write and read series. He also talks about writing three holiday stories in 2020, how he got started writing romance, and that a camboy romance is something he really wants to write.
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. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Production Assistant Details on BGFP website
- The Last Five Years at Out of the Box Theatricals (streaming tickets currently available through May 9, 2021)
- [title of show] on BroadwayHD
- Spencer Spears Interview
- Spencer Spears: website | Facebook | Spencer’s Space Facebook Group |Instagram | Amazon
- Murphy Brothers series by Spencer Spears on Amazon
- Maple Springs series by Spencer Spears on Amazon
- 8 Million Hearts series by Spencer Spears on Amazon
- Dawson’s Creek on Netflix
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Amazon Prime Video
- Felicity on Hulu
- Sea Kissed by Spencer Spears on Amazon
- XOXO Santa by Spencer Spears on Amazon
- The Little Mermaid on Disney+
- Prancer on Amazon Prime Video
- A Very Naughty New Year by Spencer Spears on Prolific Works
- OnlyFans website
- What Women Want: Gay Romance on Amazon Prime Video
- Louise Erdrich on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Marilynne Robinson on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Patricia Wrede on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Maggie Stiefvater on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Adam Silvera on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Benjamin Alire Sáenz on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Death on Demand series by Carolyn Hart on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Show Me by Neve Wilder on Amazon
- The Wilds on Amazon Prime Video
- Gardner’s World on BritBox
- 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 transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, Spencer Spears is headed back to SummerseaIsland for a new series, and he’s got all the details for us.
Will: Welcome to episode 304 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will. And with me as always is my co-host and husband, you know him, we all love him. It’s Jeff Adams.
Jeff: I feel like I’m on a variety show now.
Jeff Nobody wants that .
Will: Do a dance.
Jeff: Well, nobody would see that, but nobody wants that either. Hi everybody.
Will: Welcome back. Rainbow romance readers.
Now a few times in the past, we’ve spoken about how this show is literally a two man operation. It is just Jeff and myself, and that is it. Just the two of us putting our little show together every week. But we have finally decided now is the time to go in search of someone to join us in the glamorous world of podcasting.
Jeff: Yes, indeed. We are looking for a production assistant to work with us on editing parts of the show, as well as helping out with the transcripts. Now, if you think you might be that person, or you might know someone who is, you can check out the page of information that we’ve put together at BigGayFictionPodcast.com/pa.
And you’ll find there the specifics on what we’re looking for and how to get in touch with us to talk about it. If you are that person then we would love to have you come work with us, as Will said, in this glamorous world of podcast production.
Will: Check it all the deets at BigGayFictionPodcast.com/pa.
Now, before we get to this week’s author interview, Jeff wanted to talk a little bit about what we’ve been watching recently.
Jeff: I did. I have been getting through the past year trying to take in theatrical experiences wherever I can. Longtime listeners of the show know that Will and I would often go to multiple theatrical events during the year. Thankfully there have been some really excellent things come along on streaming. And we’ve got two that we just want to quickly highlight for you here.
Recently Out of the Box Theatrics has done a stunning production of Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years.” Now we first saw this when it premiered in New York back in 2002, and I’ve seen it a few times on stage since. And there was also a movie that was done a few years back with Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick that was really great.
The show is very simple. It’s about the five-year relationship between Jamie and Cathy. Now not only is the music simply gorgeous, some really romantic tunes, some really gritty tunes in there. But the story itself is told a very unique alternating point of view way with Jamie’s story starting from the beginning of the relationship going to the end and alternating with Cathy’s story that actually goes from the end of the relationship back to the beginning. The only time that they sing together is in the middle of the show at their wedding.
This new production from Out of the Box is simply incredible. It’s been nominated by the Drama League for best streaming performance of the year. And it was so easy to see why. They shot this in a New York city apartment with just the two actors and the musicians. It was so good. It just swept me away. It was one of the best evenings I’ve had parked in front of the television recently.
Will: Yeah, I agree. Everything about this production was really stellar, especially the two leads. The only minor quibble I might have with this particular recording of the show is that if you’re going into the show blind, meaning you don’t understand the conceit of the show, the alternating timelines, you’re probably going to be a little bit confused because the two actors in such close quarters in this single New York apartment, I don’t think it’s readily apparent that conceit of the show.
So other than that, with some prior knowledge moving into the experience, I think it’s genuinely spectacular. It’s really wonderful.
Jeff: And hopefully we’ve just given you that understanding that you would need to be able to enjoy it. If you want to check this out, the production is available to stream through May 9th, and you can get a ticket for that at the Out of the Box Theatricals website at ootbtheatrics.com.
The other thing that we recently got to check out is a new production of “[title of show].” It has been nearly 13 years since this little show that could was on Broadway. We love this so, so much. It was special to revisit this after years of only having the off-Broadway recording, and getting to go back and hear all of the expanded songs and everything again.
This show is about two guys who are writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. And it’s a real story about these two musical theater writers who got together to with three weeks to write a show to go into the New York New Musical Festival. And it’s all about creativity. And it’s all about working with friends. And there are so many little Broadway musical in-jokes in it.
This musical means so much to me because we saw it the first time as I was trying to write my first novel, and like make my first novel into something. The whole creative process, and the ups and the downs, and the triumphs, and the imposter syndrome. It just meant so much. And it was really nice to see a full production again. This was one was also created for streaming and I thought they did a really good job with it.
Will: Yeah. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that whenever creative people are presented with a challenge, they’re going to get creative. There’ve been so many online presentations that I’ve really enjoyed in the past year, various dance companies and theater companies working within the confines of COVID restrictions and creating something genuinely special. And I think that’s what this group did here. I loved getting to revisit the adventures of Hunter and Jeff and Heidi and Susan. It was a lot of fun.
Jeff: Yeah, it was great. And if you want to check that out, “[title of show]” is available on the Broadway HD platform and you can find them at BroadwayHD.com.
Will: So this week we had the great pleasure of talking to author Spencer Spears.
Jeff: This was such a great treat to finally talk to Spencer. We’ve been to so many conferences together and it’s one of those were it’s like, “Hey, Spencer” and then you’re off somewhere else. And it was really wonderful to just sit down and chat with him.
He really cracked me up earlier this year with his Winter Wonderland story called “A Very Naughty New Year” about two guys attending a New Year’s Eve party and some hilarious misadventures they get up to with a sex toy. We talk a little bit about his holiday stories, but we really dig into what he is launching this spring, which is a spinoff to his “Murphy Brothers” series. And he told us all about why he decided to go back to Summersea Island and why he loves so much writing in series.
Spencer Spears Interview
Jeff: Spencer. Welcome to the podcast. It is awesome to have you.
Spencer: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Jeff: Let’s just dive right in. What can you tell us about what is coming up this spring? Cause you haven’t revealed too much to the world yet about what’s coming. What can you maybe tease us with?
Spencer: That is very true. I have been keeping things under wraps for a little bit longer than I sometimes do, but that’s because I’ve got a project that I’m really excited about. I’m a bit of a control freak. So I tend to not want to share until I have everything all perfectly planned out.
But I have a new three book series coming out this spring. And I’m really excited about it. It is going to be a companion series to an existing series of mine set in the same place. So I have an existing three book series, my “Murphy Brothers” series, which is set on an island off the coast of Southern Georgia.
And it’s very idyllic, touristy and fun. And I just love the setting. And as the series name would suggest, Murphy brothers is about three brothers and I had a lot of fun writing their stories, getting into some family intrigue and background with them. And I also had a side character who I adored and who I had many readers tell me that they also adored, and I really wanted to write a story for him, but I finished the three book “Murphy Brothers” series, and I didn’t just want to throw together this sort of fourth tagged on book for the side character.
I really wanted to wait until I had something perfect for him. And the second half of 2020, as I was turning my attention to other books, I had a lightning bolt of inspiration and I realized that there were a couple other side characters from other books that weren’t even in the Murphy brother’s series but were canonically within the same world.
All of my books are technically in the same world. I just don’t always make all of those connections super apparent. And I wanted to get better at that. I wanted to really reward readers who have read my back catalog and have fun with connecting people from different series and bringing back favorite phases and everything.
And so I had this lightning bolt of, Oh my gosh, I’m going to make a new three book series with three new characters. Well, they’re new and that they’re getting new books, but you’ve seen them in some other places before. And it’s also going to be set on the Island of Summersea. And the “Murphy Brothers” characters are gonna show up and it just kind of ties everything together.
And it was really fun to get to go back into that world. But I’m not delving quite so much into the family intrigue of the Murphy family. Now I get to explore other people’s lives. And so I got to do some of my favorite tropes. I’m just really excited about it. So I’m going to be sort of reissuing the “Murphy Brothers” series.
They’re just getting new covers cause I’m really excited. And Kate Ashwood is a cover designer who I love, and she made brilliant covers for those. And she designed the covers for the new series, which is going to be called “Rebel Hearts.” And I don’t want to tell anymore because I’m still lining a few things up with release dates and everything, but there are going to be three new books coming out this spring in the “Rebel Hearts” series. And I can’t wait for people to read them.
Jeff: That sounds super exciting. And I love how you had the lightning bolt moment. Those are so fun when you’re like working on stuff over here and that it’s like zap, here’s this new thing, which of course you probably want to go work on right then, but you can’t.
Spencer: Absolutely. Exactly.
Jeff: What made you want to come back to that island? You’ve got other series out there. What was it about the island that was like, this is where I’ll do all my tie togethers?
Spencer: Well, I have a few different series. One’s another small-town series set in Northern Minnesota which is pretty close to my heart because I live in Minnesota. One is set in New York city, which is, the opposite of a small town. And I love both of those settings and I love those characters. Some of them might be showing up in these new books just a bit. But what I loved about the Island of Summersea, Georgia that I created is, I mean, it’s two things, one I just really liked that part of the country.
It’s not where I grew up at all. But I think it’s beautiful. There’s something about being in that sort of Intracoastal, waterway area with those islands and sort of that marshy-ness, and it’s not quite tropical, but there are some Palm trees and it feels very lush. I know a lot of people hate humidity.
I’m the opposite. I really like humidity. I don’t do well in drier parts of the country where it gets super cold at night. So, California would not be great for me, but there’s something about that sort of, that feel of being on a sea Island in that part of the country where the air is kind of thick and smells really good salty and all Jasmine and everything.
I love being there and visiting when I can. And I love getting to go back there when I write. And then the other thing was, when you create a world and you’ve put so much time into it, you develop an affection for it, for the small characters in the settings that you’d like to go back to, I just, I didn’t feel like I was done with it yet.
I had more that I wanted to explore there. And I felt like there was our perfect little place where I could, I’d created a fertile garden flat for more things to grow. It was a really ideal place to, like you said, do that connection of some other series and other characters and a place that felt really special.
Jeff: It sounds like you’ve been there, to that area. Is there a particular Island or a particular sort of thing from there that you kind of based your Island on?
Spencer: A little bit, so a few different things. I have been there a few times.
There’s an Island actually in Florida, but like just across the Georgia/Florida borderline. But I think it’s called Amelia Island, which is actually, I think it’s entirely a park. I don’t think there’s any commercial or residential building on there, but it’s beautiful, and I have loved spending time there.
And I’ve also just spent some time, I mean, on some of the more touristy areas, if you go a little bit further North up to Hilton Head or even up into the outer banks, roughly Summersea Island is based off of Jekyll Island in Georgia. I’d refer to it in the series, you can’t get there by car. You have to take a ferry over it. And the ferry leaves from Brunswick, Georgia, which is a real city in Georgia that’s geographically where it would be placed, but then I just kind of made it up. I had fun creating all the history of how the towns were founded.
And there’s something about small towns, which is really fun. You get to invent all these festivals and you know, the town newspaper, and the town horticultural society and stuff. That’s just, I dunno, it makes you feel like you’re like this. It’s the same thing as being really into Legos. Right. Did you ever have a lot as a kid and you get to create this whole world, but you’re just the God of, and you get to move everything around and make it perfect? For me, it feels very much like that.
Jeff: I love that. And then tying everything together. I love that as a reader where it’s like, “Oh, I know those people… they’re from over here.”
Spencer: Yeah. It’s like, that feeling that you get sometimes when you see a friend out of context. At first it sometimes even takes you a second to place them because you’re like, wait, I know you from high school, but now I’m seeing you at a restaurant in you know, the place where I live now that I’m in my thirties and I haven’t seen you in 10 years, but it’s that feeling of excitement of like, I know you and worlds colliding.
And when it happens in books, it’s even better because the people who are colliding our favorite characters, in real life, maybe you don’t like that person from high school. Maybe you don’t want to run into that. But in a book, it’s fun to bring together people who I love and who I know readers will love. And it just feels like magic.
Jeff: So many of your books are in series. You’ve got very few standalones. What draws you to series?
Spencer: So I have an answer which is going to sound very, not literary, but I think it is honest. And I think it is, it all goes back to my misspent youth being very obsessed with some TV series on, well, I guess it was the WB at the time. It is now the CW, but I was just the right age to be a fan of Dawson’s Creek and its heyday of Buffy, of Felicity, of a bunch of shows like that.
It was my first experience with TV shows that told these serialized narratives. And yes, there were some standalone episodes, but it was just so much richer if you had seen the episode that came before and were going to see the one that came after and I just loved getting to see characters that developed across a whole series. And even if they weren’t necessarily a main character for like the first two seasons, they could get an episode in season three. And it was just, it was so much more rewarding if you’d been with them and seeing all the little changes they’ve been through up until that moment, it was so rich then to see them get that focus.
I think I’m kind of a sap. I hate when series end, whether it’s books or TV. To this day, if I’m going to watch something on Netflix, I am much more likely to pick a TV series than a standalone movie, just because if I get invested in characters, I never want to let them go. And so obviously it’s a little bit different in how I write my romance novels.
I try to make them fairly standalone so that you can drop in on book three of a series and you don’t need to have read books one and two, because each book is going to focus on a different couple. And so, you don’t need that back on information to understand, and to be a totally swept up in the characters and the story of book three.
It does reward you if you’ve read the other ones. I love it. I love reading series like that. I love it when other authors do that. That’s sort of how I write naturally. It just is kind of fun and I will tell you a secret… sometimes if I get an idea for a plot or a trope that I think might be a little bit iffy, or it might be something that some readers might be a little bit on the fence about if you’re writing a series, you can kick that book to the end of the line, but you can tease those characters out so that by the time you get to that book, people are salivating for it.
And so there may be a little bit more likely to take a chance on a trope that they might not have just because they’re like, man, I want to know what happens to that guy. Like, I’ve been watching him all these books and I just have to know. So, I’m going to read those even if it doesn’t seem like it’s normally my kind of thing, because they’re invested.
And so that’s a little, I don’t know what that says about me. If it’s insecurity or just strategy.
Jeff: I’m going to take it as strategy and make a note of that for myself. And I think you just maybe gave a little bit of author advice to those in the audience. It’s little tip from Spencer.
Spencer: I will cop to that. I do it. I have done it multiple times and it just feels a little bit, I don’t know, a little bit safer and it’s just fun, I love sometimes I just like to kick my favorite character to the end of the line because it gives me more time to spend with him. Of course, like I say, a favorite character and then immediately I’m like, no, but they’re all my favorites. I love all my children equally.
Jeff: I wasn’t going to call you out on that one.
Spencer: I won’t say I should. I should backtrack. It’s not my favorite character, but just a character. So here’s another bit of author shop talk, you know how sometimes you break your characters down into the easy to love character and the hard to love character?
And sometimes you’ve got a character who’s just real hard to love and you know that you love them, but they’re prickly and they can be a little hard to break into. And so that’s kind of, you could just spend more time with them. And then by the, it just, it means that you get to really do them justice when you get to theirs. I like that.
Jeff: What makes for a good series set up that you’re going to want to take and spend three, four or five books in?
Spencer: I think it’s a matter of finding a setting that feels rich enough, or at least a world that feels like it has enough potential that you’re not going to get bored of writing in this place. I mean, some series really are a sort of world spanning. And so, if your connective device is a family, but they each live on a different continent then you’re not writing in the same tiny little, small town the whole time. But if you are writing in a small town, make it a place that you like mentally spending your time. But I think it’s just for me, what drives all of my writing is characters, almost all of my books start out with some kind of moment, some pivotal scene that’s usually somewhere in the middle of the book actually. That’s some conversation between the two characters and it’s just, there’ll be some dynamic that I get obsessed with and I keep returning to it and it’ll come back to my mind as I’m drifting off to sleep over and over. I think often what I’ll do when I’m considering a new series is I kind of go through my mental Rolodex of those scenes and I think, okay, is there any way to put all of these scenes, all of these pairings into one world? For me, it’s really character dynamics I’m figuring out. Do I have enough characters that I’m interested in that that I could even build a series? And then how do I come up with relationships among them that gives it some kind of the hook.
I mean, they don’t all need like super hooky hooks. It doesn’t have to be like, yes, they’re all spies and an elite agency that is based in a small town and uses code names based off of, I don’t know, dog breeds or something… like, it doesn’t have to be like super specific. It can just be like a group of friends.
But what is it about that group of friends that has you excited? I think if you’re excited about it, that translates to readers being excited. I think people can tell when you’re passionate and when characters seem real to you.
Jeff: Now I’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about 2020s holiday books. You had two books out in the holiday season, then you followed up with one that was part of that big Winter Wonderland giveaway. Now, we’re certainly not in the holiday season in this moment, but I’ve got to ask, what sparked this flurry of holiday writing that you had at the end of last year?
Spencer: That’s a good question. And honestly, the answer is serendipity or synchronicity.
I mean, it honestly felt like something kind of came together in the universe to kind of direct me that way to put me on that path. And I am so grateful for the way that it worked out, because I had so much fun with those books and I was writing quite a bit faster than I usually do too. So that was an interesting experience.
I hadn’t written that fast in about four years. It was nice to know I could still do it. So, the first holiday book that I had that came out was called “Sea Kissed.” and that happened because a group of authors got together and wanted to do contemporary M/M takes on fairytales.
And I was approached by them and asked if I wanted to join. And I just thought it sounded fun. I love fairytales. If you give me one second, I’m going to awkwardly reach behind me and pull out from this bookcase this, which is this massive book “The Giant Color Book of Fairytales” from, I think the seventies or something. 1971 is the copyright and this was something that we had that my family had when I was a kid and I loved it. And I just, I love looking at it. They hired so many different artists to do the illustrations, so each one’s illustrated differently. And it’s right at that time when it’s like, you have to be able to read independently because it is a fair bit of text, but it’s a really good thing for an early reader, because there are these pictures that draw you in and the stories are super engaging.
And I think that set a love of fairytales for me from when I was a little kid. And I’d always had some favorites. And “The Little Mermaid” was one of them. God, I’d loved “Little Mermaid” as a kid. I remember wanting to see it in theaters so bad. And we had to go see “Prancer” instead. Oh, it is a saga and not to speak ill of the dead, but I’m still a little bitter about my grandmother. She’s passed on so I won’t say anymore. But anyway, eventually I saw “The Little Mermaid” and I just, I don’t know, you’re a kid, you like swimming and you think the ocean’s cool. And I just, I loved him. So, when I was asked if I wanted to do this fairy tale retelling series I was really excited and I said, yeah, and I wanted to do something with a “Little Mermaid” and ended up taking a very different direction from how I thought. I randomly had a dream, that never happens to me, but I had a dream that just dropped the plot in my lap.
And it was no longer exactly The Little Mermaid it was now. And it was an amnesia book, because that was the trope. And it was about somebody who had escaped from the kidnapping. And the “Little Mermaid” tie-in was that this person has woken up on a beach with, he has no memory of how he got there and he doesn’t know who he is.
And he also can’t talk because of some injuries that he sustained escaping his kidnappers. So that’s kind of the “Little Mermaid” tie-in and then it actually goes its own way. But I really loved it. It was just, it was sometimes I think one of the best spurs to creativity is giving yourself a little bit of structure.
It’s like, how do we know that sonnets are good, but you have to have the format of a sonnet to then be able to judge which ones are good and which ones are bad. I think it can really encourage some creativity there. And that’s what I found the structure of the fairytale framework to be for me.
As it really, I don’t know, pushed me to write a bit of romantic suspense, which I’d never really done before. So that was fun.
And then the second holiday book that I wrote “XOXO Santa.” So, it’s funny. So, you mentioned that, but yes, that was a holiday book. And then I wrote a follow-up for the Winter Wonderland giveaway.
That was called. Oh, my gosh, this is embarrassing “A Very Naughty New Year’s.” That’s what it was called. That was going to be bad if I couldn’t remember the name of my own story. So originally, I had the idea for “XOXO Santa.” I thought it was going to be 15,000 words and I was like, Oh, I’m just gonna bang this thing out over a weekend.
It’s going to be super-fast, super easy to write. And I am a chronically, not just slow writer, but also a very long writer. I pulled a Spencer. I did what I always do. And I was like, this will be super short. And then I wrote 70,000 words and it was like, well, crap. But I really loved what I’d written.
But it no longer made sense to do it for the Winter Wonderland giveaway because it was a Christmas thing. And the Winter Wonderland giveaway wasn’t happening until after Christmas. And sure, you can read Christmas books in January. Plenty of people do, I do, but I wanted to actually publish it before Christmas if I could.
I think I neglected to mention this about “Sea Kissed,” which was the other holiday book that was sort of Hanukah seemed a little bit. And so, I sort of felt like it’d be fun to balance out, have a Hanukkah book and then a Christmas book. And so that then knowing that I wanted to give “XOXO Santa” to get it out before Christmas, I needed something new for the Winter Wonderland giveaway.
I wrote a follow-up “A Very Naughty New Year’s” with the same two characters, but it was just them two weeks after “XOXO Santa” finishes. So, it was like very quickly picking up with them just a little bit further on in their relationship. I loved getting to come back to them.
And I still feel like there’s more to tell them their story. So actually, that is a goal of mine for 2021 is to really, truly finish their story and wrap it up. And I don’t quite know if it’ll be holiday themed this year, but it’ll probably be coming out sometime this fall, some kind of final book that’ll sum up what happens to those two characters Blake and Henry because I love them so much.
Jeff: They’re such a hilarious couple. The whole thing with the Winter Wonderland story and the sex toy that goes missing was an absolute riot.
Spencer: Thank you. That was, I don’t even know where that inspiration came from other than just like, the horrid recesses of your mind, but it’s like, what’s the worst thing that could happen to you involving a sex toy and your family? So I just, I don’t know. My mind was in the gutter when I was writing that one.
I had so much fun with them. They’re just, there’s still light there. It’s just a lot of my characters have kind of like familial trauma and it was really nice to write characters who just get along with their parents and have supportive parents. They’re also very young, they’re both college students.
And so, their families play a bigger role in their lives then a lot of my characters who are further on in life. So yeah, that was just, that was really fun. The one thing I will say that I was kind of a sad, not sad, but I’m a little sad disappointment slightly to me from that run of holiday books was that originally “XOXO Santa”, it’s an online mistaken identity/online dating book – that sort of the trope. Originally it was going to be a cam boy book. I had the whole title in mind. It was going to be “Cam Boy Christmas,” and it was going to be about this guy who had the equivalent of a sort of OnlyFans account that was going to be the basis for how he got together. And as I was writing it, I just, I sort of fell in love. This often happens to me. I’ll have a trope and I’ll start writing the two characters and I’ll be outlining it and I fell in love with the two characters with Blake and Henry and it just didn’t make sense for them anymore.
Like that wasn’t the right trope for them. And whenever I’m in that kind of a bind, I always make the decision to go in favor of whatever works for the characters. I will always read, outline, change the plot, whatever, just to make it feel true to the characters. Rather than changing the characteristic of the plot, I still liked the idea of doing some kind of OnlyFans-esque thing.
And so, not to spoil anything, but that is a trope that is going to show up in my three books that are coming out this spring. You will see a little bit of that because I just, it was too good an idea. It was stuck in my head and I was like, I gotta do something with this. So that was kind of part of the lightning bolt moment for me with those books was, I was like, Oh, wait a second.
I can still do something with this trope, I’m just gonna move it over to characters where it makes more sense.
Jeff: That’s good. I’m glad you’re still getting to do it. I was wondering if it might be Christmas 2021, but now it’ll be in this series. So that’s good. You’re getting to work with it.
Spencer: Yeah. I think I will probably do something as a holiday book this year, but we’ll just have to see. You have these grand plans of how your calendar looks when you make it in January and how super regimented you’re going to be about getting things out on time and then life happens.
Jeff: And it all falls apart, or at least get shoved over a little bit.
Spencer: Yeah. It falls apart in a way that, we’ll say it’s creative destruction, right? Like breaks, open new possibilities and you follow your muse, but you don’t follow the deadlines you set.
Jeff: I think I’ll take that creative destruction kind of phrase and use that for myself. Cause that, that sums it up to a T, I think.
Spencer: I used to be obsessed with watching back when I had a TV and had cable, I loved watching house renovation shows. And I watched this one, it was about building cabins in remote corners of Alaska. And there was this one episode I was watching, one of the guys, he’s doing stuff on the build site and people come at the end of the day and were like, well, it doesn’t look like you did anything.
And he said, progress makes a mess. And that just stuck in my head. I was like, that is a mantra to live by because so often when you’re making forward progress, you have momentum, it can look worse before they look better. But it doesn’t mean that things are broken, and it doesn’t mean you’re going in the wrong direction. It’s just, things can look chaotic for a while.
Jeff: Let’s talk origin story a little bit. What got you started writing?
Spencer: Yeah, it’s funny. I would have had a very different answer to this question even just two weeks ago. But a year ago my parents gave me a bunch of old papers and things they’ve saved from my childhood.
And they were like, we don’t want this in our basement anymore. It’s your problem. You deal with it. And so I’ve been going through them for the past couple of weeks and have been surprised to see how many old stories and the creative writing assignments and stuff they had saved. And then I actually couldn’t even get over the sheer mortification of looking at old things that you’ve written.
But when you can break through that and actually read it, it’s kind of neat to see that I’d always had a writing bug. And I didn’t think of myself as someone who’s always had a writing bug. So that was kind of a neat, very recent revelation. I would’ve said before, seeing all of that my answer, which is still mostly true would have been that I was always the kind of person who told stories to himself, it was how I entertained myself.
I read a lot as a kid. We took a lot of long car trips driving between the East coast and the Midwest. And I was that kid who, just like you stare out the window and you’re just, making things up in your mind. And for a long time, it was very internal. It didn’t have an outlet. It was just sort of how I moved through the world and how I processed things.
I think often it was like if I was dealing with something emotionally, I would kind of turn it into a story in my head to kind of work through it. And I think sort of, the two proximate causes of how I got started writing, how I went from having all that internal stuff to having it be something I was actually doing something with, I had an office job for much of the oughts and, the 2010s and like many people who have an office jobs, I would click around on websites and just kind of, sometimes procrastinate. And I remember reading this article about two women who started writing dinosaur erotica and self-publishing on Amazon and who were making a fair bit of money doing it. I think they were both college students in Texas, and I think this was 2013 or 2014 I would say, so a bit before I started publishing, but it just, it stuck in my head.
How is this a thing people do? How is this a way that people make money? That’s crazy. And it wasn’t that I was so interested in dinosaur erotica specifically, but just, I mean, they talked in the article about how low the barrier to entry was. And that was one of the things that had always scared me about writing.
I would have loved to do it, but I was really intimidated by the idea of writing a book and then having to shop it around to agents and then try to go the traditional publishing route. It just felt very overwhelming. And like, who was I to say I even deserved that? I hadn’t majored in English literature or creative writing or anything.
So, realizing that there was this way that you could get your stories out there where the only barrier was, could you write it and could you handle the fairly simple backend of uploading something to Amazon? That was really eye opening for me. And I remember then a couple of years later still at the day job, there were things I loved about that job. I still love, I mean, I still consult for them. Occasionally worked with some great people there, but it was not in the end the right fit for me because I kept wanting this creative outlet. I kept feeling like I wanted a job where more of my self came through what I was producing instead of producing things that were, I was proud of what I was writing there, I was working at a nonprofit organization that did language and education research and test development. And we were doing really good work, but it’s fairly anonymous. My name wasn’t attached to anything that was getting put out.
And I just wanted something with more creativity, and I have a good friend and we used to do this thing back when I lived in DC, where she lives, where each season we would have a Saturday where we would go and we’d do as any seasonal things for that season as we could in one day. So, we’d have like a day of winter and we’d go ice skating, and we’d have hot chocolate, and we’d have to go and do all these wintery things, a day of spring, a day of summer.
Then we had a day of fall and the fall of 2015. I remember we were talking; we’d gone for this hike and were driving back. And somehow, we got onto the subject of passion. And the question of what you would do if you couldn’t fail, came up. And I was like writing. I would write, I would actually do something about this, and that conversation inspired me to go home and sit down and write my first short story, which to this day has never been published. I’m a little, I wouldn’t say embarrassed by it, but it’s very early Spencer. We’ll put it that way. It’s a deep cut. That inspired me and I never published that one, but that made me realize that, Oh, if I actually wanted to do it, I could sit down and write something.
By the time that spring rolled around, I was just ready to give it a go. So, I had heard about Amazon. I knew there was a way to publish there, and I trusted myself to be able to write a story at that point. And it just kind of went from there.
Jeff: What led you to romance?
Spencer: I think it was a natural fit. I mean, I think to a certain extent there was a little bit in that part, there was in the back of my mind that I had read that article about dinosaur erotica where I was like, Oh, right, erotica and romance with sex scenes. That’s something people like, that’s a big genre, and you always hear about how big the romance industry is. And it is. And the stories that I told myself a lot always had a romantic elements, even if they were science fiction or fantasy stories with adventurous swashbuckling knights and things like that, there was a romantic element to it.
And that first story that I wrote after my day of fall with my friend, it was a first kiss story between two guys who were on a high school swim team together. And I think it was just that was what was on my mind. That was what came out kind of naturally.
There are lots of other genres that I love to read as well, and that I might want to try writing in some day. But romance, it felt like a natural fit, I guess. I’m fascinated by people and what makes us tick – sort of our search for happiness. And I think that search for love or some kind of romantic partnership is often one component of a meaningful life for people.
I’m just a sap. I like romance. I like reading romance. So, it just felt like a very natural fit. And to have it be m/m romance just made sense because that was, I mean, I hadn’t transitioned yet at that point. But it was almost like beginning to write m/m romance was like my way of beginning to admit to myself before I was ready to admit to myself that I wanted to transition. I had family members who asked me like, well, why are you doing that? Why aren’t you writing m/f for instance. The thing that I said was like, Oh, if I write it where it’s about two guys, it doesn’t feel as much like I’m writing about myself.
I don’t feel like anyone’s going to assume I’m writing about my own desires or my own wants or whatever. But inside I kind of knew that it was the opposite – actually kind of a lie. And it’s not to say that I’m the same as all of my characters and that I want whatever my characters want. But I think I was drawn to writing m/m romance because it was speaking to a part of my own identity that I wasn’t quite ready to publicly own yet, but I couldn’t stay away from either. I was drawn to it.
Jeff: And for those who don’t know you are trans…
Jeff: And have been publicly out for quite some time alongside your career.
Spencer: Yes. Yeah. I originally started Spencer Spears as a pen name. It’s far too alliterative to be a real name. And I checked it actually, because I had known both a male Spencer and a female Spencer when I was growing up.
So to me it was a total gender neutral name. I didn’t realize that it skewed male and most people’s heads until after I had published under it. But yeah, I picked it thinking that was going to be sort of, I wasn’t sure if I was ever gonna be a publicly out, if I was ever going to attach my face to my name or any of that.
But as time went on, something that I love about the m/m romance community is just how accepting and encouraging it is and how it does give you a chance to connect with people and then to really be your authentic self. That sounds so cheesy, but it’s true.
Jeff: But it’s so true. I mean, you spoke to some of that when you were in the documentary that was done at GRL in 2019, as one of the things you liked about this genre and the people in it, the authors and the readers.
Spencer: Absolutely. I think it’s just, there’s something really special about the way that people feel like they can open up and be a little bit more vulnerable. Obviously, it’s scary. It’s still the internet and, you know, bad things can happen. There can be drama. People can get doxed, so you still want to have some common sense.
For me, it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I think that writing helped me feel more comfortable, eventually coming out as trans and talking about transitioning, it really gave me a safe space to say who I was, where I knew I would be accepted.
I also knew on a very intellectual level that my family is wonderful, and I knew they were going to accept me, and my friends are wonderful, and I knew they would too. But in the gay romance community it’s not just acceptance. It feels like celebration. And that felt really special. So, yeah, I think it’s a wonderful place.
Jeff: Swinging back to some of the, what inspires your writing. Who are some authors who influence and inspire what you like to write?
Spencer: That’s a hard one to answer because I am indiscriminate with how I read. I read a lot of genres that are not m/m romance. I mean, there are certainly a lot of gay romance writers who I honestly try not to read while I’m in the middle of writing I really don’t want to accidentally take on somebody else’s voice. But when I’m between books, authors I love to just dive into, but for fear of saying too many people and then leaving people out and like not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, I will say probably the authors who had influenced me a lot come from other genres too.
I think there’s just a lot of great American writers out there writing contemporary fiction. I love Louise Erdrich. She’s written a lot of books that I really like her “Justice” trilogy is great. Her writing. It’s just powerful. Marilynne Robinson is another. To me, they’re both writers who I return to a lot when I’m thinking about characterization and place.
I read a lot of science fiction, a lot of mystery, a lot of YA. I was a huge science fiction and fantasy reader when I was a kid. So, I mean, honestly, like there are probably fantasy writers who have influenced me more than anybody because they’re like the oldest writers who have been in my consciousness and whose books I still reread.
Patricia Wrede as a fantasy author who lives in Minnesota, actually, who I love. I loved her books from when I was like nine years old I think, was when I read her first one. I just think she’s got such a good touch with humor and with lightness and keeping a story moving. And even though I write contemporary romance and it might seem like there’s nothing there in common, I think there’s a lot you can learn.
I love Maggie Stiefvater. She’s a YA writer who’s phenomenal with language. I wish I had her way with language. A lot of gay, like LGBT YA writers who I love. Adam Silvera, Benjamin Sáenz, Abdi Nazemian. I just read his book “Like a Love Story,” which I loved.
So yeah, there are too many to list. I feel like I’m influenced by everybody who I’m reading. So I try to be selective about who I’m reading when I’m writing so that I don’t take on too much of somebody else’s voice and write with my own instead.
Jeff: You mentioned a bit ago that there were themes and genres that you really haven’t worked with too much. And I hear a lot of fantasy coming through there. What are some things that you would like to see yourself take on in the future?
Spencer: That is a great question. I think one thing that I’ve done a little bit in my “Murphy Brothers” trilogy, for instance. As I was getting into some family history, and family mysteries, and background. That was fun for me because it was a chance to introduce a few mystery elements into the story. And I kind of built it up slowly over the course of the three books. It wasn’t like each book was like a crime of a week to solve, but it was kind of these characters delving into their own past. And what had happened across generations. And by the third book, there was also a little bit of like actual mystery/town intrigue. There were some spying and stuff and all in like this very, still quaint small-town setting. It wasn’t like I was writing a thriller, but that was fun.
I would love, I love cozy mysteries. That’s another genre I adore. And actually, I’m thinking to just really quickly tie back to the question you asked me earlier about settings Summersea Island, which is the setting for my “Murphy Brothers” series and the upcoming “Rebel Heart” series is a little bit influenced by a cozy mystery writer, Carolyn Hart, who writes the series “Death on Demand” that set on a sea island in South Carolina. I want to say.
I just love her, and I love that setting. And I’m absolutely sure that settings sort of influenced Summersea for me too. But I love cozy mysteries. I would love to write a gay cozy series someday. I think it would be fun because often with cozies you’ll have a sleuth and they have a love interest, but you get to see that relationship build over so many books.
So instead of, wrap it all up and get to happily ever after, by the end of one book, you’ve got however long you want the series to go on and it’s not that you have to keep them apart until the end they can get together earlier, but it’s just, you get to really deepen the relationship and keep coming back to it.
I think that could be fun. I definitely do think I’ve got some fantasy in the future. Cause it’s just a genre that I’ve always loved, but when you do anything, you want to do it well, right? I mean, it’s the reason I haven’t published that first story of mine, you kind of don’t want to show people your early efforts cause you don’t want to disappoint them.
So I would be hesitant to jump into totally new genres without quite knowing what I was doing first. Cause you don’t want to disappoint your readers, but I could see myself dipping my toe in the mystery waters or, into the fantasy waters at some point maybe even regular contemporary YA.
So that also kind of scares me because I have so many authors in that genre who I love and who are just absolute idols of mine. So that would feel very like terrifying to even be putting myself in that same category.
Jeff: I can’t wait to see all of that from you, whenever it happens
Spencer: It’s all happening in 2021. I’m just going to write 50 books. It’s going to be great.
Jeff: We won’t hold you to that here.
Spencer: That’s probably fair.
Jeff: 2022, maybe at the latest though.
Spencer: A little smidge of extra time.
Jeff: What’s a book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to our listeners?
Spencer: So, a book I read recently, it came out a few weeks ago, so it’s not like hot off the presses. But it’s “Show Me” by Neve Wilder. it’s the third book and her “Extracurricular Activities” series.
I love it. I mean, I talked a little bit about “XOXO Santa” was one of my books that has my youngest characters. They’re in college. So, this series of hers is set in college and I just, I’ve been really enjoying that kind of new adult feel recently. And it’s just really fun. It’s got sort of a cam boy, OnlyFans aspect to it, and that’s clearly something that’s been on my mind recently.
And I just love the way she writes. It’s just, it’s funny. Her touch with characters is so good. And it’s a series, so there are three books to enjoy. So if you read one, you’ve got two others, but you can still sink into. So, yeah, I just finished that like two nights ago. Stayed up way too late reading it.
Jeff: Oh, those are the best books though. When you’ve got sleep deprivation the next day, because you just finished that wonderful thing.
Spencer: Like on Netflix and Amazon and everything on Hulu, I had to turn off auto-play, when you finish one episode and it gets you to the next one, cause I’m really bad at like, saying no, actually making myself stop.
And I really need that for books in between the chapters. I need like my Kindle to pull up a blank screen and be like, are you sure you should still be reading or like we’re noticing on your clock that it’s 2:00 AM. Are you sure you don’t want to be like asleep right now? Cause I will just push through.
Jeff: Sleep timer for the Kindle. I like that idea.
Spencer: I love getting swept up in the book and I don’t regret it, but like, when my alarm goes off the next morning and I’ve only gotten five hours of sleep, it’s a little challenging.
Jeff: Speaking of Netflix, Hulu, et cetera. What have you watched lately that you would say go binge this thing? Cause you mentioned you’re very into the series.
Spencer: Yes. Okay. Recommendation that I literally binged. I watched it all in one night. I stayed up until it was truly light outside and birds were tweeting again in the morning. This series on Amazon Prime called “The Wilds.” The way that I’ve seen it described, and it is somewhat accurate, is that it’s like “Lost”, but with teenage girls or you could say sort of like “Lord of the Flies,” but with teenage girls. A cross between the two, except it’s not actually like “Lost” or “Lord of the Flies.”
But it’s just really good. And I think that so often you don’t get a lot of TV shows that have multiple young female characters who are all like really individualized, fully realized characters who are also a part of some sort of love story. And I just, it was really refreshing to have something where it’s got some mystery elements and some adventure elements. I’m not spoiling anything by saying the premise is that it’s a group of teenage girls who wind up after a plane crash on a deserted island and then have to figure out what to do from there.
But it’s just, I loved it. It completely drew me in it was just, propulsive really well done. Great acting, great writing.
So, I’ve been alternating. I watched that. And then I’ve been my slower show that I watch is “Gardener’s World,” which is a British TV show about gardening that happens weekly. And it’s like very sedate. It’s what you what watch when you finished all of the “Great British Bake-Off” and you’re like, I need more gentle British TV. What do I watch? So “Gardener’s World,” is one that I’ve been watching, but that’s really good because it’s like you just get to watch people talk about their gardens and plant things like, you can actually turn it off when you’re tired. It doesn’t grip you in quite the same way. So that’s been my other one.
Jeff: Very cool. Well, you’ve given us so much to think about, especially with that serious coming out this spring, as you revisit the island. How can people keep up with you online to know perhaps most importantly, when that series starts to roll out?
Spencer: The best way to probably keep up with like you’ll be the absolute first person to hear about it, is to find me on Facebook and join my Facebook group. I have a group called Spencer’s space. And so that’s where all of the like hot off the press’s announcements happen first. That said, I know a lot of people aren’t on Facebook. Don’t blame you. Social media is exhausting. So, you can follow me on Amazon. And I know that Amazon sends out updates whenever your favorite authors, who you followed, have new books.
You can join my newsletter. You can just check my website which will have the announcement of the new books once they’re live. You can also join my newsletter from my website. So that’s probably the simplest way to find it. So yeah, that’s how I announce things is on Facebook and then on my newsletter and once they are alive, they will, it’ll be on Amazon and on my website as well.
Jeff: We will link to all of that in the show notes, along with the books and TV that we’ve talked about. Spencer, it has been so wonderful talking to you. I’m glad we did this.
Spencer: I have a lot of fun. This has been really great. Thank you so much for having me.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the shownotes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. And don’t forget the shownotes page is also where you’ll find links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And thanks again to Spencer for spending some time and talking to us all about what he’s getting up to with the new “Rebel Hearts” series.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up this Thursday and episode 305, it’s the April Big Gay Fiction Book Clubt featuring Ari McKay’s “Striking Sparks.”
Jeff: Such a wonderful book and such a wonderful kickoff to their “Walker Boys” series. Can’t wait to discuss it with everybody.
Will: Thank you everyone for listening until next time, stay strong, be safe and above all else. Keep turning those pages and keep reading
Jeff: Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Our original theme music is composed by Daryl Banner.