Jeff & Will congratulate Roan Parrish on the cover reveal of her upcoming holiday story The Lights on Knockbridge Lane, which is also the first gay romance to appear in a Harlequin series line. Jeff also discusses season 2 of Hulu’s Love, Victor.
In a conversation from a recent Big Gay Fiction Live, authors from the Love is All anthology talk about this year’s edition, which benefits the National Center for Transgender Equality. Anthology creator Xio Axelrod shares why she created the anthology four years ago. During the conversation Xio, along with contributors Rachel Lacey, Chantal Mer & Susan Scott Shelley, Connor Peterson and R.L. Merrill tell what their stories are about and what pride means to them. Plus we hear from two authors who couldn’t be part of the live show, Meg Bonney and Sophia Soames, about their contributions.
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Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- The Lights on Knockbridge Lane by Roan Parrish Cover Reveal on Facebook
- The Lights on Knockbridge Lane by Roan Parrish on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until September 28, 2021)
- Becky Albertalli on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Love, Victor on Hulu
- Love is All Authors Interview
- Xio Axelrod: website
- R.L. Merrill: website
- Susan Scott Shelley: website
- Chantal Mer: website
- Rachel Lacey: website
- Connor Peterson: website
- Meg Bonney: website
- Sophia Soames: Facebook Group
- Love is All anthology by Various Authors on Amazon | Kobo (available until July 8, 2021)
- The Trevor Project website
- William Way Community Center website
- National Center for Transgender Equality website
- Ordinary Man by Ozzy Osbourne, produced by Andrew Watt on Spotify
- Post Malone on Spotify
- Sara Lunsford on Amazon
- Linda Perry on Spotify
- Love and Pride Playlist on Spotify
- The Hockey Player’s Heart by Jeff Adams & Will Knauss on Amazon
- Dancing for Him by Jeff Adams on Amazon
- “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band on Spotify
- Skam on IMDB
- The Stand by Stephen King on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Annabeth Albert on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- I Want More by R.L. Merrill on Amazon | Kobo
- Layla Reyne on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Trouble Boys series by Connor Peterson on Amazon | Kobo
- Hideaway by Rachel Lacey on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Falling Faster by Susan Scott Shelley on Amazon | Kobo
- Where I Belong by Chantal Mer on Amazon
- Hockey Allies Bachelor Bid Auction series by Various Authors on Amazon
- The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- KJ Charles on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Alexis Hall on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Fast Forward by Xio Axelrod on Amazon | Kobo
- Love is All on Facebook
- Everly by Meg Bonney on Amazon | Kobo
- Breathe by Sophia Soames on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Coming up on this episode, the authors from the “Love is All” anthology join us to talk about this year’s brand new edition.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 317 at the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff Adams and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Will Knauss.
Will: Hi there rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show.
Now, normally we don’t talk about cover reveals here on the podcast, but we have to shout out the gorgeous cover Roan Parrish revealed for her upcoming holiday story, “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane.” It is everything you could ever want in a holiday cover. It’s got two guys lovingly looking at one another while sitting on a bench on a snowy evening, outside a festively decorated house. It’s giving me all the holiday feels. It’s so cute and so wonderful.
Now, this is a notable release because this is the first time a gay romance has been included in a Harlequin series line. Like first time. Ever. In history. So congrats to Roan on the amazing cover and for this historical moment from Harlequin. We’ll have a link to the cover in the show notes. If you want to see it for yourself, as well as a link to the pre-order. “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane” will be coming out on September 28th. And we’ll give you more details about that release as the fall approaches.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll probably be starting my Christmas reading a little bit early this year.
Jeff: Right. I don’t really start until November, but there is no way that I can’t read this as soon as we can get our hands on it. The cover is so gorgeous. I just wanted to walk into it and just be right there, celebrating with those two.
Jeff: So earlier this month, the second season of “Love, Victor” dropped on Hulu. It’s no surprise to people who are longtime listener to this show that I’m a massive fan of Becky Albertalli’s Simon-verse, and how it went from book to movie and now this Hulu series.
The series picked up about two months after the end of the first season, just at Victor had come out to his parents and it did not go well. As the summer moved on things continued to be strained at home. But I really liked the trajectory of the series as it looked at school, coming back into session for the new year and everybody settling back into school and kind of the new paradigm with Victor and Benji dating, plus the connections that had happened between Felix and Lake and everybody kind of getting back into their school mode.
I’m not going to spoil anything for anybody, but a few highlights of what I like this season. The show opened up a lot as Victor moved past his coming out experience, we got to finally see a little bit more of some of his friends characters. The things that went on with Felix and Lake, figuring out their relationship a little bit more. In particular, some things that have gone on with Felix and his mom we got a little bit more experience with.
We found out in season one that Felix’s mom battles with depression and some mental illness. And so we got to look more at that and how it impacts Felix. We got to see how all the friend dynamics changed as Victor started embracing more of his true self and how that reverberated through everybody at the school, including his basketball team.
There was a lot of really good stuff going on this season and I enjoyed it a lot. And it’s a very interesting contrast to what we see on the other end of the teen show spectrum with HBO Max’s “Generation,” which actually just restarted the rest of it season one this week and I’m looking forward to diving into that. But, there’s such a contrast between the kind of wild kind of crazy in your face vibe of “Generation” and these very out very queer kids and what we see over on “Love, Victor,” which is very much more, frankly, middle-class suburban Atlanta that we’ve got over there. And yet the stories resonated just as much, as Victor’s trying to sort himself out. His mom is struggling with what she knows from her upbringing in the church, his friends all figuring out what this means. It’s very typical, you know, coming out, coming of age drama there. But I really enjoy these two different spectrums in teenage drama.
Please let season three of “Love, Victor” come sooner than later because there’s a whole lot of cliffhangers that happened at the end of the season. So, Hulu needs to assure all of us that there’s going to be a season three. If you do want to check out “Love, Victor” it is streaming on Hulu. Season one and season two are there. And as I mentioned, Generation” has just come back to HBO Max. So, if you were waiting for the back half of season one, it is currently streaming on Thursdays.
Love is All Anthology Authors from Big Gay Fiction Live
Jeff: And now let’s dive in and hear a little bit more about the “Love is All” charity anthology. We hosted a Big Gay Fiction live back on June 8th as this year’s edition was coming out. And we’re excited now to bring that discussion here. I got to talk to author and anthology creator, Zio axle, rod, along with contributors, Connor Peterson, Rachel Lacey, RL Merrill, Susan Scott Shelley, and Chantal Mer. We talk about everything from how the anthology began, what this year stories are about and what pride means to each of the authors.
Jeff: I’d like to start with Xio. You started, The “Love is All” Anthology four years ago now. What prompted that to, begin?
Xio: I don’t remember what the specific thing was. I just remember it being a period where there was a lot of, tragedy amongst the gay youth community. The suicide rate was high, there was a lot of depression. I’m a Tumblr person, and I’m also in a fandom that skew is very young and I just saw a lot of pain, a lot of suffering and people reaching out, looking for support and family, and I thought, you know, I don’t know. Other than like being, everybody’s like big sister, I don’t know how to help. I came across a tweet from the Trevor Project and I was like, oh, that’d be really cool. I’ll just donate some money to that must be really awesome to raise awareness and do something cool. And I think maybe Susan might have been the first person that I approached saying, I think I’m going to do this thing. should it, Should you talk me out of it or not?
It’s always been a small group of authors. I think the most we’ve had is maybe 10. I said, I’ve never done this before, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll do cover and I’ll take care of everything, just send me a story. Everybody was really great and we raised some money for them. We couldn’t use their names because people were writing spicy stories and they were like, we really appreciate it, but don’t say her name, so we couldn’t really say who they were, but yeah, that was the beginning of it. And then I thought, I think I’ll do this again next year. And here we are in 2021.
Jeff: Which is really excellent. You’ve mentioned raising money for the Trevor Project in that first one. Have you raised for others along the way? I know we’ve got a different one this year that we’ll talk about in just a moment.
Xio: Yeah, the second year we did William Way Community Center, which is here in Philadelphia. They provide services for the gay community. It’s a one-stop shop for information, for support for just to hang out, a safe space. It’s a really cool organization. And they were super thrilled, when they found out. They were like, yeah, sure, whatever. And then they kept seeing the social media post and they were like oh! It’s like that, and they were like, oh my God, we love you. So the queer community here in Philly became aware and they were really supportive and re-tweeting everything. So they were really great.
Then last year we had the Marsha P Johnson foundation. Institute rather, sorry. They were our recipient last year. So every year I try to pick something that seems relevant, seems urgent and the trans community has been under attack for the last few years.
Last year was Marsha P Johnson. And this year I was like, we’re still here. So let’s step it up and find someone who’s actually going out and taking on cases and defending people and setting up in communities
Jeff: yeah, I think even more this year than even maybe last year to have a transgender organization at the forefront of the money raising with all that’s going on in state legislatures this year.
Xio: Yes. Yes. Oh my God. Yeah. I, yeah, I don’t wanna get angry cause this is a celebration. But the news is so it just makes you want to, you know
Connor: As the parent of, it’s not just a trans person myself, but the parent of a couple of gender nonconforming children, it has been argh to watch the news lately.
Xio: so, hopefully, everyone will go out and buy it and not just when it’s 99 cents, pick up the paperback. It’s super thick. I get my first, copy tomorrow, I can’t wait because it always feels so nice to have it in your hand, I’m a print girl. So hopefully people will support the project.
Jeff: Can you tell us how much money you’ve raised to date in this wonderful project?
Xio: I think the most we raised from one was the William Way. The second volume we raised , I think it was a thousand dollars or something like that, which is incredible for such a small thing. Cause we don’t do ads, and we’re selling at 99 cents for release week and the final week. So, I think usually it’s $500 somewhere around there, but thousand dollars was like, Ooh, we doubled up. You know what I mean? It was really cool. So hopefully it’ll grow and I can do more. And I want to do like other things like auctions and things like that, it’s still in its infancy, even though this is the fourth volume, it’s still a passion project. But if I can turn it into something more, I would love to!
Jeff: So I’d like to dig in and talk to all these wonderful authors about the stories that they did, and Ro, we’ll start off with you. You’ve got one in there called “Love and Pride.” You actually kick off the anthology. Tell us about your story and what inspired it.
R.L.: So last year for “The Love Is All Anthology”, I wrote a story that was super inspired by the music that I was listening to. And it was actually inspired by Ozzy Osbourne’s album that he did last year with Andrew Watt, who is a pop star producer. He works with Post Malone and they did this big collab and I was just blown away by the album. Music is always important to me, but it was so important last year when I was stuck in my house and with these people living with me and I couldn’t get away except for when I put in my headphones. So I really liked the world that I created. And I already had mentioned that the character in that story had a partner that he was working with. And so I was like, oh perfect segue.
And then I actually wrote the story, “Love and Pride,” because another author friend, Sara Lunsford was planning to do a lesbian sweet holiday anthology for last year. And because of COVID, she was very sick with it. And so she had to can that, and I still had the story written. When it came time to think about this project, I thought it makes sense. It’s connected to the story from last year. It was really fun to write because again, it was also inspired by a producer that I admire and that’s Linda Perry who is very active in the queer community. And she’s also somebody that had a pretty, hefty name for herself. And then she ended up going from rock to producing for pop stars. She’s fascinating. I watched a bunch of her stuff and I listened to a bunch of her music. And I got to hear her a couple years ago at a benefit for the children’s hospital in San Francisco. And I was like, someday, I’m going to write a story about her or with her as my muse, and so there you have it.
Jeff: That’s excellent. That’s a good story. All the music connections there, I should have known that there’d be more music connections here besides just Xio’s.
R.L.: Xio and I have been friends for a lot of years now, and we always, “have you listened to this? Ooh, listen to this!” And so where you trade music and I always,
Xio: Totally. Did you ever see this band in concert? See this band yet?
R.L.: I love her recommendations. I loved listening to all of the music that inspired The Lillys and so it’s been great. But, there’s always gotta be some music piece. I do have playlists on Spotify for the story. It’ll be on my website. You can check that out.
Susan and Chantal, you’re up next? You co-wrote.
Chantal: We did.
Susan: It’s not our first, we were, co-writing a rugby series and two chapters into that, this character Jalen who’s in “Against The Rush” is a bouncer in that story. And Chantal was I think he needs his own book and I, of course, I’m never gonna say no. So he also is an amateur hockey player and he coaches in a youth league and okay, we’ll we have Jalen now. So now let’s create his story for this anthology.
Cause I love, this is my favorite thing. I’ve been a part of this from the beginning. I love taking part in this every year. This is very important cause to me. And so I was like, all right, it’s January or December, let’s plan this book out. I’m like, okay if it’s a hockey player, then he needs another hockey player. I’m gonna, keep my sports theme going here. And Chantal is all for that too.
Chantal: We enable each other, like, Susan’s we should do this. I’m like, sure.
I like, we should do this. She’s yes,
Susan: It’s been a lot of fun. He’s a hockey player as a single dad. It’s taking place during hockey season and during holiday season their schedules don’t mesh and they meet at a youth
Chantal: Charity event
Susan: because his hockey league, the youth hockey league serves underserved communities. And there is actually a spinoff character from Chantal’s book that was in the “Bachelor Bid Auction.”
Chantal: I forgot about that.
Susan: We have this web of characters, just like branches out through about three of our different series. So it’s been a lot of fun.
Chantal: But yeah. Yeah. We’ve had fun.
Jeff: Margot left a comment that was exactly what I was thinking, that book, enabling friends are the best.
Connor: Anytime I deep down inside have a project that I want to work on. All I do is post on Twitter. Like I’ve had this idea and when the 15 things like, oh my God, I need to read this happens. It’s yes, thank you.
Jeff: And it’s even better when co-authors enable, because it’d be difficult not to be able to enable that, that in that fashion.
Susan: We have a text chain of how many stories now.
Chantal: We’ve loss track.
Susan: And then let’s do this and let’s do this too. So we have enough books to take us through several books a year through 2024.
Chantal: We need to do an Excel sheet for all of our ideas.
Susan: She’s so organized. I love it
Chantal: I’m like everything needs an Excel sheet. I’m like, we need that Excel sheet.
Jeff: Rachel, you’re up next. “Off the Rails,” tell us all about it.
Rachel: Yeah. So my story is called “Off The Rails”. It’s about two women who sit next to each other everyday on their daily commute on the train. And I had always wanted to do a set up like that, cause I used to ride the commuter train and to work every morning. And I would see some of the same people every day. And I would wonder about them. I don’t know. I just always thought it felt like a cool idea for a meet cute for a romance, have these two women who sit next to each other. They each kind of had a little bit of a commuter crush on each other, but they’ve never really talked before the story opens and then they get thrown into kind of a situation together. So that’s my story.
Chantal: I love that idea of that.
Xio: Strangers on a train.
Rachel: Yup! Yup! Strangers on the train, but without anything like that happening.
Jeff: So the next one up here is my contribution to the anthology for this year. And I was so excited to get to play in the sandbox and support such a wonderful cause. I wrote “The Hockey Player’s Pas De Deux.” More hockey for the anthology. Cause that’s kinda my thing.
Xio: Hockey. We love hockey.
Jeff: I should’ve wore my Red Wing shirt. I don’t know what I was thinking.
My story, for those who are not up on ballet terminology, a Pas de Deux is typically one of the more romantic dances that happens in a ballet. That’s just two people doing it. And in this particular book, we’ve got a pro hockey player who gets to reconnect with his childhood best friend who is a ballet dancer.
And when they were kids, they were very fast friends. They lived a few houses down from each other, a very tight relationship and a little odd because even at a young age Dixon was a hockey player and, doing the things that would put him on a trajectory towards a professional career. And Oscar was also a young dancer into ballet and moving down that path that was going to take him pro.
And then in the summer while they were eight, they were suddenly separated. They went away to camp for the summer, but they did not come back together because Oscar got an offer to go into a ballet school. And so they moved. And of course when you’re eight, you don’t think about social media. You probably don’t think about writing letters you just go on.
20 years later, Dixon playing for the New York Rangers. And he’s at a ballet performance at Lincoln Center. And he’s looking at the program. It’s holy crap, here, it’s Oscar in the program. And from there they rekindle their friendship and that friendship get the spark, but they have to figure out how do we start something when Oscar’s on tour and Dixon’s playing? And even then one lives in New York when lives in Miami. So how does all that come together?
For me like Susan and Chantal, I bring multiple pieces of my universe together here because Dixon plays for the Rangers\. His captain is Caleb from “The Hockey Player’s Heart.” And Oscar, his dance partner is Nate from “Dancing for Him.” So I’m merging my universes together through this one story. So very excited to put that out into the world.
Jeff: Connor tell us about “Tangled In Blues”.
Connor: I’ve always been a writer of like supernatural fiction. And it’s funny how many times in the years I’ve done this anthology that it’s like, and then there was this paranormal story and it’s yeah, hi, that’s me.
But lately I’ve especially had a kick with a historical fantasy. So for this story, I decided to take you all the way back to the 1990s.
Jeff: I was getting so ready to go to Regency or something.
Xio: Way back machines.
Connor: The way back machine. Yeah. Back to the early days of the Net.
My sweet summer child.
Xio: Tell me about the nineties,
Connor: You know, honestly it was a story that I wanted to write because I always love like fish out of water sort of stories. And when the main character is a werewolf, how do you make him a fish out of water somewhere? And it was really fun because you guys were all talking about how you have stories that relate sometimes to some of the other projects you’re working on. And it was like a long time ago that me and my editor and my best friend, everything like that, we created this supernatural bar and it was like, what if we threw this werewolf into this supernatural bar where you’ve got humans, you’ve got vampires, you’ve got other shifters, but what if there was this back room that had stuff that was even more different than that.
And so I got to use this backdrop of him being in such unfamiliar settings with the fact that he’s got all of this inner turmoil that he brought with him because he moved from Joplin, Missouri out to San Francisco. And I got to play around so much with the fact that he went from being this hickish kind of werewolf to being in San Francisco in the mid nineties and everything like that. And I don’t get to get too heavy into the setting, but it’s a nice interplay with all of the different stuff that’s happening in his life as he’s resolving a conflict that happens in the bar, he’s also resolving a conflict that he’s been dealing with since he lived in Missouri.
So, it’s fun. And it was also the story that I wanted to write to put out there, this bar, that Jessie and I who’s my editor, created. That was the inspiration behind that one.
Chantal: I love that.
Jeff: Awesome. I like how all these little tendrils happen
Jeff: And Xio, you’ve got the anchor position in all of this with the last story of the anthology. Tell us about “Georgia’s Devil”.
Xio: “Georgia’s Devil”. I don’t even know what to say. I can’t give too much away. But it was inspired by the song “The Devil went Down to Georgia.” Cause you know, it’s a short story. So I was like, let me just sit down and write whatever comes.
And it reads like a mashup between “Supernatural” and “Lucifer.” You’re not the only paranormal story in the anthology anymore, Connor.
The main character has to steal a soul. So yeah, and that’s pretty much all I can really say about it without giving stuff away, but it was fun to write and I think, I like creating parallel worlds to things that people know. So it’s not hell, it’s The Agency. And this is not a demon, it’s a collector. So I like playing around with stuff like that. But yeah, hopefully people will like it. They might hate it. I don’t know. It’s fun. It’s sexy. It’s very gender fluid. It’s just fun. It was a fun piece to write.
Jeff: There’s a couple of authors who could not be with us tonight. Sophia Soames and Meg Bonney. Can you tell us Xio about their contributions into this anthology?
Xio: A little bit? Meg she, was really on the fence about whether to submit the poem that she wrote. It’s called “My Dad’s Eyebrows.”
And it’s a hard hitter. I mean, It’s a brief piece, but it’s so good. And the message that I sent across is so strong. I think people will really love it. And I’m really happy that she trusted us to put it out there. Cause she was like, ah, I don’t know, people will think it sucks. I’m like no, let’s do it. Let’s do it. So I’m really glad she was really brave to do that.
And Sophia. If you haven’t read Sophia, Sophia is Swedish and she’s lived in London for, I don’t know how long, but her writing is very Swedish British. I don’t know, let’s say it’s like she has all these British-isms in her writing and it’s adorable, but she writes like really emotional romance.
And Leo and Jamie’s story. I think it starts as a Grinder hookup. That turns into something more. She just writes these characters that you feel like live next door. She writes really great dialogue, really great, like scenes between the characters and you really feel like you know them by the end of the piece. And I really love her writing.
We met in the Skam fandom actually. She was a Skam fic writer like me and I, encourage her to write original fiction and she’s just flown with it. Like she was amazing, really emotional, lovely, sexy writing. So I think people will like this story a lot.
Jeff: I have a lot of reading to do.
Xio: Her books are thick.
Like she writes some thick books. So I was like, can you write short? Can you do a little one for me for the anthology?
Jeff: It is not easy. I don’t know how everybody else did. All of us were gunning for 20 as the max.
My first draft was like at 32. And I like hammered it on down to about 22, 23. But that was as much as I could get it.
Connor: Oh God. I’ve told people repeatedly that I have two modes, either flash fiction or Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Those are my two modes.
Jeff: Does that mean you’ve got the longest one in the anthology?
Xio: I think so.
Connor: I know, and I feel so bad. Yeah,
Xio: I think so. Although Susan and Chantal yours was longish.
Susan: We came in at somewhere in the very, very top of the 23s, or the low to mid 24s. We did our best. We tried so hard. We ended up at like Jeff, we ended up over 30. Yeah. And then it whittled away ruthlessly, like slashing words for two weeks, but like little baby words. And it’s just like, well,
Xio: Do we need this “the” here?
Chantal: But then Susan got ruthless and she would just went in and was like slash slash.
Susan: I put away my nice middle child persona, and I went in and slashed and then I was like, Xio is it okay for a teeny bit over, and by a tiny bit, I mean a few thousand.
Xio: I knew I was writing short. I know Connor always writes long. I knew I was going to write short and I know, we have a nice amount of authors. Meg was writing a poem. So I knew that we would get a little bit of everything. It’s mostly about the paperback because it can get really hefty.
Connor: I feel like I owe you some money for part of the printing cost.
Xio: It’s awesome. It looks great on the shelf and it looks, the central library has copies here in Philly because it’s stands up to circulation and stuff so.
Jeff: Just looking at it this way, a bigger paperback means more money earned.
Xio: Exactly. People feel like they get their money’s worth, right.
Connor: And Xio took so much pity on me for the fact, then I wanted to go through and actually try to chop the story a bit harder, but I’m in the process of moving and that has consumed my life for the last five weeks. So when I went to her and I was like, I have a story and it’s really long. She was so nice about that.
Xio: Last year and this year, last year, especially I think it was really hard. Just the last, 18 months. It feels like everyone’s starting to exhale now, but everyone’s holding their breath for these last two volumes. I didn’t think I was going to do it last year or this year. Because I know people were going through all kinds of stuff and I was like, and this year I was like they’re going to not want to sit around and write. I want to see family, but
R.L.: Ro was like ping, ping…
Xio: Yeah. Ro was like are you doing it? Are you doing it?
So, thank you guys for stepping up. I really appreciate it. And we have people, people who’ve been involved before we wanted to do it and they’re like, I just don’t have the spoons and I’m like, I get it. Like I totally got it.
Chantal: And I have to say I’ve bought this every single year. So I’m so excited to be a part of.
I always buy it. So I was like, yay, I’m in it.
Xio: You’re part of the LIA family now. So yeah, next year I want to do something really special because it’s our fifth one. And so I want to do something really cool. I have a special treat up my sleeve for that one that I can’t talk about.
Jeff: So Xio, there’s also a special foreward in this edition from Annabeth Albert. How did that come about?
Xio: Annabeth is so supportive of everyone. Like she’s just an amazingly warm and supportive person and out of the blue a couple of years ago, I think it was, may have been when I released my first romance. She was like, Hey, if you ever want to come into my group. And I was like, really, because, I don’t, you don’t know me. So I was like, wow. Okay. And anytime I had to release, she was like, Hey, if you want me to promote it, let me know. And we had an event for my release for “The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes” that she did with me and I was like can I possibly maybe bother you for doing this thing? Cause not everybody feels comfortable putting themselves out there like that. You know, forward is like you’re at the beginning of the book, you setting the tone for the book. It’s usually very personal.
And so she was like, can you give me an example of what you want? And I was like I want you to feel free to write whatever you want, but here’s what we’ve done before. But she really opened herself up and told a beautiful story. Thank you. Annabeth really appreciate it.
Jeff: Yes, thank you Annabeth.
R.L.: She’s been such a big mentor for me too. She’s so great.
Connor: Yeah, she is. I can’t tell you how many times cause I know she’s gotta be busy and she definitely has her own stuff to do. And there’s been a few times I was mentioning like the moving process and a few other things that are going on and what over the last year that she’s just popped up on my Facebook and just, even if it was just to give me a little note of encouragement or something like that, she is such a sweetheart.
Xio: Yeah, I’ve been really fortunate to meet some really generously spirited people. Over the course of this, even, obviously I knew a lot of you before, but even through the project, there were people who were just like, I really love that you’re doing that. I was like, oh, really? So it’s been really an amazing experience all around.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s amazing how open this community is in general. People like Annabeth and others giving of, everything that they can while maintaining their own work and people who come together for causes like this. It’s so wonderful to see.
Since we are in pride month. I’d like to take a minute and go around with everybody and hear what pride means to you and what messages you would give in pride month.
Susan, I’m actually going to start with you.
Susan: So for me it means being a fierce ally. It means listening to and learning from and celebrating the LGBTQ community. And it means being an advocate for their rights, in words and actions, people deserve to be loved, accepted, and celebrated for who they are. And I try to live that every single day, not just pride month, but every day of the year.
Jeff: Ro, I’ll come up to you.
R.L.: I just finished my 27th year as an educator and pride to me is about education. But also a process for me of learning. I’ve had experiences with my own children, with my students, that taught me a lot about humanity and a lot about my own kind of opinions about things and my lack of knowledge.
And eventually to the realization that like, um, you know, the reason why I never came out earlier as being queer is because I didn’t know that was a thing. Just because I grew up outside San Francisco, we didn’t have anybody out in our community that, for me to have a role model of Hey, this is what your life could be.
And so I spent a lot of my time living the life I thought I was supposed to, and I’m totally happy and don’t have any regrets. But I think that if we had that way back machine back to 1990, when I graduated from high school and went to Iowa, I did the opposite of your story.
But yeah, I think things would have been a lot different. And so for me, it’s about educating people, educating kids to know that like my mom always used to say nothing is forever in high school. Like things are going to get better. Things are going to be different and you will have so much more kind of ownership of your life once you can get through this part.
Jeff: Xio, how about for you?
Xio: For me, it’s in the title of the anthology. It’s about love. Like Susan, it’s something that I tried to live throughout the year, but I think it’s nice to have as a period of time. And it’s different for every country. That’s one thing I learned that not everybody celebrates pride in June but it’s nice to have a period of time wherever you are, where you stop and think, and look at how you treat your neighbor and how you treat yourself.
I think this is a time when people learn to love who they are and accept who they are. This is the time that they learn to love and accept their children, their siblings, their friends, and neighbors.
We’re teaching people how to love people who are not like them, because we have a very myopic view sometimes of what we think love looks like. And I think this is a time where we teach people that it’s a whole spectrum. There is a beautiful, big old rainbow that keeps growing with all these colors. So yeah, for, so for me it’s love.
Jeff: How about for you Connor?
Connor: For me, pride is, in a nutshell, my family I’m trans. I came out really late and in my long, 41 years I came out when I was about, oh God, I discovered I was bi when I was 29, but I didn’t discover or really investigate being transgender until I was about 36 or 37.
And it was something else. It was something I even kept really close to me. It was not until my youngest kid came to me and said, Hey mom, I think I might be trans that I realized that if this kid could have the courage and audacity to come to me, knowing that I’ve always been supportive and loving of my kids, but that they were still putting something on the line that they were risking some kind of rejection.
And here I am, I felt like the coward in the closet at that point. And that’s not to say that not coming out as a cowardly thing, but that was just how it struck me at that moment. It was like, this truth about you and why arn’t you living it. And so it’s been this celebration and it’s been heartache and it’s been a bunch of stuff, all rolled into one, but it’s been this.
Everyone in my family now in my immediate family, me and my kids, the people that we hold closely, if we are a family, is, are both our blood relations and our chosen families. It’s funny because I live with a roommate. She and I both are parents of special needs kids. And so we cohabitate because of that. And we modeled these pride flags because we wanted to make sure that we had them out and celebrating and everything like that. But we brought one flag that represented like everybody in the house. And before you knew it, we were joking around saying, this house looks like the queer United Nations.
And It’s not just even a concept to me, it’s life, it’s every single day of my life. This is what it is. And and also for the record, I can tell you flat out from personal experience that I know Xio, Chantal and Susan, like we’re all from Philly. And the very first time I ever met them was when they had a coffee shop gathering that was for those of us who were writing or getting into writing romance.
And I introduced myself to them as at that point I haven’t settled on the name Connor, but I said I’m a trans guy, is that okay? And I got warmth and acceptance and compassion, and it has just been beautiful ever since. So I can tell you from personal experience, they are every bit the walking, the walk as they are talking the talk.
Susan: We love you Connor.
Jeff: Thank you for sharing that Connor. Chantal?
Chantal: I think for me, it’s humanity. Because we are all people. It is about love. It’s also about modeling being an ally, learning. I have kids, I feel like part of my job as a parent is to model the behavior I want to see. And so when I see my kids who have friends who….
Connor, you talk about like you came out later. My daughter, one of her very good friends in sixth grade came out as trans and it was so beautiful to see because these kids had known each other since third grade. It was this little core, core group. And when this child came out as trans, like none of them even blinked, it was like, okay.
She has a couple of other friends who came out as non-binary and again, it’s just like their generation, it’s just so different than my generation.
R.L.: They’re doing a better job than we did.
Chantal: Exactly and so I feel like with pride, that’s what it’s about. Being out there as representatives of the queer community. As allies and as an ally, I feel like, again, it’s my job to learn and to stand by people, support and an advocate and, do all of that stuff, but it’s really humanity. It’s about being human and loving each other. So that’s what I see.
Xio: Love is all.
Jeff: And, Rachel.
Rachel: As someone else who came out later in life, I think for me, pride is really an opportunity to embrace being part of the community and also a reminder to be thankful that we live in. Or that I live in a place in a time where I have that opportunity to really take advantage of, all these open minds and beautiful people and just really being a part of it. So that’s what it means for me.
Jeff: Thank you all for sharing that. I love when we can share these messages with our audience so that they can hear, we’ve got six of you here and that each story was different. And I think it’s wonderful to hear the different representations of pride across the board. So thank you so much for sharing that with everybody.
I wanted to make sure we hear about what a current project is or what a future project is and know the website that everybody can keep up with you so as they discover you perhaps for the first time or read you again in love is all that they know where to go find out more.
R.L.: You can find me at www.rlmerrillauthor.com. I just in time for this, I put out as a solo release my story from last year. So if anybody reads “Love and Pride” and they want to know about “I Want More” that’s out now.
And I also am waiting anxiously for the ebook to come out of “Haunts and Hellions”, which is a gothic romance anthology that I got to be a part of the spring. The paperbacks are out, but I’m waiting for the ebook because I know a lot of my readers are ebook readers. And I wrote a male ode to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and it’s called “The House Must Fall”. And yeah, so that’s, what’s happening.
Xio: You wrote that specifically for me, right?
Connor: What are you talking about?
Jeff: They’ll be a SmackDown later.
Xio: A gothic smackdown.
R.L.: We’ll write you all the spooky stories you want.
Jeff: Connor, what’s something current for you and where can people keep up with you?
Connor: So I was beyond honored that actually they got Layla Reyne was on recently and she mentioned actually at the book project that I’m currently working on. So first of all, can I just say for the record, as an avid reader of, romance that to have somebody whose books you actually read, say, oh, I read this book by Connor Peterson made me go…
But I’m working on a trilogy that takes place in the 1920s. I like to, oh, how did somebody to describe it? It was “True Blood” meets “Boardwalk Empire” is how somebody described it. And I was like, Oh my God. I love that. But the first book is “Red Hot Sugar”. That just recently released back in March, the second book, which is called “Lousy With Trouble Boys”.
And at the end of October, the third one is called “Button Man Scratch”. And that one will be out at the end of October. But if you want to keep up with me my website address is authorconnorp.com.
Jeff: Fantastic. Rachel?
Rachel: My latest release before this one is called “Hideaway” and it is a small town, second chance lesbian romance with rescue puppy. You’ll find a lot of animals, particularly rescue animals, in my book. In fact, the one that I wrote for the anthology, there are whales. Real whales in the ocean.
One of my heroines is a Marine biologist. But back to “Hideaway” it’s part of Sarina Bowen’s “World Of True North”. And it’s a part of the “Vino and Veritas” series, which is all set around that inclusive wine bar and bookstore in Burlington, Vermont. So the books are all interconnected by the location, but they’re all standalone. So you can read any order, whichever books you like, and you can find out about all of my books at rachellacey.com.
Xio: I was in Vermont last week, and this is my second time up here.
Rachel: I saw your pictures.
Xio: The first time I went up there back in fall, I went to Mirror Lake. And I went to all these places that I knew authors had put Vermont locations in there. And I was like, I was going to do this like m/m romance book tour up here. So yeah, we were in Burlington. I’m like, I used to talk about this street. Yeah.
Jeff: Susan, tell us what a current project is and where people can find you.
Susan: So a current project for me is I’m actually working on a couple of things right now. I have something called “The Falling Series” and book one of that was in the anthology last year, and I’m working on the next book in that series, which should be out in August.
And Chantal and I are at the very beginning of our third co-written book together. And that’s the rugby series. And the first book will be out in January for that. We’ve got some special things planned. If you follow our social media and my website, susanscottshelley.com, we’ll, be sharing little tidbits as we get ready for that and so both really excited. Yeah.
Jeff: And, Chantal.
Chantal: Yeah, so yes, Susan and I have been working a lot. I say this is our building year as co-writers or because we’ve been writing a lot and next year a bunch should be out. I’m also working on the second book in my “Love In Philly series”. Which I always call it Philly in love series. I always say the wrong thing, which is so bad.
And so that is actually Alejandro who was in “Absolving Ash,” who was in the “Bachelor Bid” series he’s in this book. I don’t know when that will be out, but I am working on it.
Jeff: All this interconnectivity, I tell you. Danny left a comment that they’re loving the idea of these interconnecting things because it’ll just be easy to go find the next thing to read. Things are so connected together, all the same universe.
And, Xio, of course, you’ve had a release just recently with “The Girls With Stars In Her Eyes” and congratulations on that. I love walking by in Target just seeing it hanging out there.
Xio: I had a fan moment, like Connor because KJ Charles reviewed it on Goodreads and Alexis Hall put it in his newsletter. And I didn’t know either of those things were happening. So like I got a text from a friend like, oh my God, KJ Charles is And I was like, wait, what? Because it’s an m/f romance. I call it the contemporary fiction is how they’re doing it, but it’s got a romance in there. But it’s incredibly queer. Like it’s just a really queer universe. And so it was really heartwarming for me to see those endorsements.
But yeah, so right now I’m working on book two in that series, “The Girl With Rhythm In Her Heart”, which has my pansexual cinnamon roll hero, who I think everyone’s going to love. But yeah, so that’s me. And then this fall, I returned to the Alt Er Love universe. The followup to “Fast Forward” is coming out.
Actually, I haven’t announced that yet. So this is the announcement. Yeah, October “Rewind” will be coming and Jamie and Ian, and we’ll be back in action.
Jeff: Breaking news right here.
What’s your website so people can keep up with everything?
Xio: Yeah. xioaxelrod.com and I’m @xioaxelrod on all of the social medias. And I just opened a TikTok account like a month or so ago. So I have four videos there, but I will do more.
And as we do wrap up here, please tell everybody where they can find “Love Is All” and how long they’ve got to be able to get this, because it’s a very short window of time.
Xio: It’s a very short window, I think, because we are a week into June, we usually run like around the end of July fourth weekend, like around there. But yeah it’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. It should be on Apple Books pretty soon. They’re taking a little bit of time, but all of the major e-tailers and it’s already in paperback, on Barnes and Noble and Amazon. So you can get the nice, big, thick paper back and yeah.
And we’ll be doing some giveaways. If you guys go to facebook.com/loveisallromance. We have our own little page there and we’ll be doing some excerpts and some giveaways and some other things you can follow all the authors. So yeah, hang out with us. Celebrate pride. It’s going to be a blast.
Love is All Authors Meg Bonney and Sophia Soames
Jeff: Now Sophia Soames and Meg Bonney couldn’t join us for the live episode, but I got to talk with each of them as well about their stories.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your story in the “Love is All” anthology.
Meg: Hello, I’m Meg Bonney I am typically a YA author. I have my YA series called “Everly” and I’m a mom and a cat taker care of, you know, worship them and their little furry beings. And I also have the wonderful opportunity to contribute to the “Love is All” anthology. This is actually my second story. That I’ve, well, this is a poem, that I’ve contributed. I did not have a chance to write one last year in the 2020 craziness, but I’m glad to be back this year with a poem. And the poem is called “My Dad’s Eyebrows” and it is about a homophobic parent and a very strong ally child and that kind of head budding relationship.
Jeff: What inspired the poem?
Meg: My father was always very anti. My parents are divorced for very clear reasons. My mom is such an ally. She’s got her like free mom hugs shirt when we go to pride, like she’s all in and he just could not have been more opposite and very vocal about it. And I always had this idea when I was younger, that if I was loud enough with my love and acceptance, that it would like somehow drowned him out. And like when you’re a little kid, that’s how you think of things? The older I got, I realized it’s just like talking to a brick wall, but I never stopped trying. He’s no, longer with us, but I definitely kept trying until the last time we talked about it.
So, he often wrote, I even mentioned it in the poem, about him writing letters to the paper before gay marriage was legalized and just things like that, that always stuck with me when I was younger. I like to put that much effort into hating something. It just, I just always found that so crazy.
So I tried really hard to like, balance him out in the universe when I was little. And just kind of that idea is where this poem came from about trying to be the opposite of that. Just to kind of cancel him out, you know, try to be as loud as his anti-ness with my positivity about it.
Jeff: And, Sophia, please introduce yourself.
Sophia: My name is Sophia Soames. I am Scandinavian, but I live in the UK and I write contemporary romance. My contribution to the “Love is All” anthology this year, it’s a short story called “Exhale.” This is a spinoff from my current novel “Breathe.” “Breathe” features Ryan and Luke and “Exhale” is a story about Jamie, Luke’s brother, who decides to go on a Grinder date. It’s the first time Jamie has ever gone on a date with a man. Not the first time for Leo though. And they end up in a little bit of a pickle. It’s a very sweet little story, and I hope you enjoy it.
Jeff: Tell us a little bit about “Breathe” for those who made not be familiar.
Sophia: “Breathe” is the first book in my “New London” series. And it’s a story about Ryan, a young man who used to work as an adult entertainer. He disgraced himself and he has now ended up back in his mother’s spare room in London, where he’s licking his wounds and his broken heart.
Ryan became so enthralled in his own hype, his own media, his own self-importance, that he completely destroyed everything around him. It’s been a hard lesson for him to learn, and he is now heartbroken and trying to go to college, but it’s not going very well. He does meet a young man called Luke though. And Luke had his own fall from grace, but they are extremely different people and have their own stories. It’s like everything in real life, things don’t go very smoothly, but the story has a happy ending. I think it’s a story about life lessons, that it’s sometimes alright to just stop and breathe.
Jeff: What does pride mean to you?
Sophia: I think pride is becoming a wonderful family celebration, and I think it’s an excellent opportunity to perhaps talk to your children, talk to your family members, educate people and encourage people to ask questions about what the flags mean, what the celebration means and why it exists.
Meg: So many things. I mean, just the ability to not feel shameful about who you are and who you love, and that it shouldn’t be something that has to stay hidden. And it shouldn’t be something that you have to, you know, prepare yourself to talk about. Like it just, for me, I just want to always create a safe space, whether it be for people in my life or my children who are young, like I just always want them to know and their friends to know that they’re always safe here.
And I try to just kind of exude that acceptance as much as I can, especially on the internet now that there’s like, you know, the internet and social media and just waving the pride flag all year round and trying to be a really strong ally and just always letting people know that there’s a safe space for them, with me, if they wanted to talk and that sort of thing. So just being proud of who you are and being proud of people for being proud of who they are. And love and acceptance.
Jeff: Tell us about anything you’ve got coming up next, and where people can find you online.
Meg: Like I said, I have the Everly series. So the first book is out. It’s on Amazon and anywhere you can get books. And the second book is called “Rosewood Burning.” And if you go to my website, the cover reveal was there. It’s megbonney.com. And that I don’t have this specific date yet, but it’s slated for the fall of this year of 2021.
Sophia: I don’t have a website at the moment, but I do have presence on social media as Sophia Soames. I also have a readers group called Sophia Soames’ Little Harbour. If you’re on Facebook, come and say hello. We’d love to meet you.
Thank you very much for having us.
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 show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. And don’t forget the show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And thanks again to the “Love is All” authors for joining us. It was great to hear about everyone’s stories. The anthology is only available until July 8th. So make sure you grab it soon to get some wonderful stories and give support to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next on Thursday in episode number 318, it’s the Big Gay Fiction book club episode for the month of June, where we will be discussing “Seeking Solace” by Ari McKay.
Jeff: I’ve enjoyed reading each of the “Walker Boys” books, and this was such a wonderful finale to the series and we get to have a romance on a cruise ship.
Will: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, stay strong, be safe and above all else, keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.