Jeff & Will recommend the supernatural rom-com Out of Body, which is perfect for Halloween week viewing.
Author Merry Farmer is here to discuss two books she’s releasing this week. First up is the second in her After the War historical romance series, Never Judge a Duke by His Lover. Then the discussion turns to Peter and the Mission, the fifth book in her fantasy series Peter and the Wolves. In addition, Merry talks about her love of romance and history, her excitement over creative writing assignments, and what’s coming up next.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Out of Body on Amazon Prime Video
- Episode 180 – “Out of Body” with Jason T. Gaffney and Kevin Held on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Merry Farmer Interview
- Merry Farmer: website | Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram
- After the War series by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo
- Between His Lover and the Deep Blue Sea by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo
- Schitt’s Creek on Netflix
- Never Judge a Duke By His Lover by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo
- Games Lovers Play by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until December 14, 2021)
- Dar Albert: Wicked Smart Designs website
- Peter and the Wolves series by Merry Farmer on Amazon
- Glee on Netflix
- Elizabeth Hoyt on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Courtney Milan on Amazon | Kobo
- Jordan L. Hawk on Amazon | Kobo
- The Brides of Paradise Ranch series by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo
- The Silver Foxes of Westminster series by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo
- West Meets East series by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo
- Jonathan Maberry on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- The Umbrella Academy on Netflix
- Forbidden Desires series by Piper Scott and Virginia Kelly on Amazon
- Isaac series by Taylor J Gray on Amazon
- The Brotherhood series by Merry Farmer 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, we’re going to be exploring the love lives of dukes, lords and irresistible rakes with historical romance author Merry Farmer.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 341 at the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and with me as always is my co-host and husband Will.
Will: Hello, rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show.
Now, before we get to this week’s author interview, we wanted to tell you about a sweet gay romcom that is perfect for the Halloween season. It’s called “Out of Body.” And it’s about a guy named Malcolm who accidentally becomes a disembodied spirit on Halloween. And it’s up to his friend Henry to help him become re-embodied and maybe find love and the process.
Jeff: We love this movie. We had the opportunity to see it when it screened last year, as part of the Palm Springs LGBTQ film festival. And so we highly recommend you check it out. It’s on Amazon Prime Video now. It’s currently available for free with your prime subscription or you can purchase and rent it. And coming later this week, it should also be available for purchase and rent on Apple. And if you want to learn even more about “Out of Body,” directly from it stars Jason T. Gaffney and Kevin Held, you can check out episode 180 of the podcast when we talked to them about it.
And what other update to pass along to you. We’ve mentioned a few episodes back that we were recording a crossover, ask me anything episode with Sarah and Amanda from “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.” We did that this past weekend. We talked about so many things, and I do mean so many things, and also had a pretty hilarious time doing it too.
This is going to be a huge crossover event. The conversation is going to start on our show in episode 344, which will come out on Thursday, November 4th. Then it will continue on Friday, November 5th in “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books” episode 482. We hope you enjoy this epic crossover as much as we did, and we’re looking very forward to bringing it to you.
And now on with the interview. Author Merry Farmer loves history. With two history degrees, it’s no wonder she writes historicals. But, she also loves to tell tales of happily ever afters. Combine the two together, and you’ve got the recipe for some incredible stories. On October 26th, the second book and her ” After the War” series, a book titled “Never Judge a Duke by His Lover” comes out. And Merry’s quite prolific too. As you’ll hear in this interview, she’s also releasing the fifth book in the “Peter and the Wolves” series on October 30th. I talked with Merry about both of these series, where her love of history comes from, and what’s coming next, which happens to include a spinoff from one of her most popular series.
Merry Farmer Interview
Jeff: Merry, welcome to the podcast. It is really wonderful to have you here.
Merry: I’m so happy to be here.
Jeff: Will’s been reading so many of your books in his year of historicals, and he was like, we’ve got to get Merry on the show.
Merry: That’s so flattering.
Jeff: And this is the perfect time to do it because this week you’re releasing the second book in the “After The War” series. Before we get into that book, tell everybody kind of the series origin story and about that first book “Between His Lover and the Deep Blue Sea.”
Merry: Well, the, the funny thing is, see if this sounds familiar to anyone. I wanted to write a story about the fact that after the Napoleonic wars, most of the Navy was decommissioned, and suddenly you had all of these officers who had had jobs and had their livelihood and what they thought they were going to be doing for a long time to come. And suddenly they didn’t have a job. Suddenly they were stuck at home and they had too figure out how to change course and to go do something else.
I think a lot of us are experiencing things like that these days. So I just basically wanted to take a bunch of guys and put them in a situation where their purpose had kind of been taken away where they had to find something else to do. So that’s sort of like the background of the plot that overarches the entire series.
But along with that, I also wanted to create a world where all of these things that a lot of people think are true about gay history, like the fact that you were always in the closet and for fear of your life if you were found out. I just wanted to ignore all of that and write a bunch of love stories.
Because I had watched a documentary about the making of “Schitt’s Creek” and I was so impressed by Dan Levy’s commitment to creating this world where homophobia didn’t exist, even though we all know that’s not true. So I was like, yeah, I want to try doing that for historical romance. Just let’s just ignore that entire aspect of things and just tell some love stories.
So that’s sort of where the overall mood of the series came from. And I also wanted to take a lot of the tropes that I see in the m/m books that I read and bring them into the historical romance world, because a lot of them, you can’t do necessarily with m/f romance. So that first book, “Between His Lover and the Deep Blue Sea,” is an age gap, classic age gap romance, where you have the excitable young guy, who’s a little bit of a train wreck and the older and wiser guy who falls for him, even though he thinks he shouldn’t.
And just how that dynamic creates something even greater than the two of them that they started with. And in the second book in the series, the one that comes out this week, I wanted to go for the classic gay awakening story of the guy who doesn’t quite understand why things in his life just haven’t really clicked before. And he’s done his duty. He’s a duke and he has done all the things that a duke should do and takes his duty very seriously, but why is his life so unfulfilled? And he gets the answer to that from his brother’s best friend.
So it was just fun to create this world that these guys are just hanging out for this summer cause they have no clue what to do with the rest of their lives and are figuring that out as they go along.
Jeff: I like that you’re kind of working to battle some of the stuff that can happen in historicals, where it’s viewed that gays and queer people we’re always suffering. I mean, there are happy times to be had in all instances. And If you’re deliberately staying away from that, you can create that happiness and still be historically accurate at the same time, I think.
Merry: Oh yeah, because there was so much more to history than the things that we’re taught in school or that reached the popular consciousness.
And one of my things I’ve been making into sort of like a branding thing lately is that love has always been loved. Again, I just want to tell these love stories because people always found a way to make it work even in difficult times. I kind of reject the notion that everybody just sort of tucked away in their own little corners, afraid to be who they were. That’s just not human nature.
And there are so many examples from history of people who lived openly and got away with it, even though it was like an open secret. I don’t know, Frederick the Great of Prussia. He got the name The Great and everybody knew what was going on with him, and yet he was the ruler of Germany. So it’s not always under the carpet.
Jeff: And you do know your history. You’ve actually got two history degrees.
Merry: I do.
Jeff: You know of what you speak.
Merry: The first degree what is just straight history. I got it from the University of Central Florida, but I kind of specialized in what you would call the early modern era. So everything from like the French Revolution up to World War One in Europe, including both of those. I love social history and I love. Oh, my gosh. I really just love the story of how everything changed because of the industrial revolution and how life just became, within a hundred years, was completely different and all the social ramifications of that.
And the funny thing is, since I’ve been writing, since I was 10 years old, I always knew I wanted to be a writer and I always knew I wanted to write historical romance. So I deliberately got a degree because I knew that I was going to write historical romance. Much to my parent’s chagrin at the time. Like, how are you going to do something useful?
And then I went and got the second degree, which is actually interdisciplinary degree in history and education because I thought I would teach high school history. After that is when I decided to go get a master’s degree in theater from Villanova University, because I thought, okay, I’ll do the history program at the school that I’m working at and I’ll do the theater program as well.
Honestly I’ve learned more about writing and even about history, because we studied the history of theater, then I would have, in my undergraduate degree. It’s really helped with my writing. It’s been fascinating. It was fun getting all those degrees. Oh, I’m such an academic. I love it. And I read history books for fun. That’s a lot of what I read for fun.
Jeff: What sparked the love of history for you?
Merry: You know, it was the realization that this all actually happened. After my senior year of high school, I got a job for the summer at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair, running around being Elizabethan peasant. But back then they had a whole program where they taught history and they taught us how to speak Elizabethan English and just all of these different things. And then from spending a summertime, pretending to be somebody from 1588, it just really dawned on me, Hey, this actually happened.
People actually lived these lives and they’re not so different from us because they had drama, and they fell in love, and they had their triumphs, and they had their failures. It was suddenly all, very much alive for me. It wasn’t just that list of battles and dates and presidents that we all have to memorize. It was, wow. This actually happened. That was such an eye-opening moment, because if you start to think about all the lives that people have lived in all the experiences that they’ve had. Whew, exciting stuff.
Jeff: Is there a particular era that attracts you the most, whether it’s what you like to study or where you like to write the most?
Merry: I think as I’ve gone along with my career, I really enjoy the late Victorian era, which is technically an official term. The late Victorian era is from 1876 up until about 1903. 1901 that’s when Victoria died. Oh fact check me.
But no, I love that late Victorian era because so many things were going on. And if you think about the technological advances that happened within the last two or three decades of the 19th century. I mean, we went from sort of a more, primitive isn’t exactly the right word. But electricity was invented, running water was invented, transportation advances. You could travel so much faster. The rights of women were being advanced. People were starting to realize, hey, maybe we shouldn’t treat these quote unquote colonials who have different skin colors than us quite so badly. And as I have discovered in my research, actually in England, the first gay rights organization started in 1890. So a lot of things that we think are modern actually started to happen in the 1880s and 1890s.
I think if a modern person were to go back and live in those decades, it would feel a lot more familiar than people think that it would cause so many things that we take for granted were actually created around them.
Jeff: Given your degrees and your background, how much new research do you have to do for books or because as you noted, you read history for fun, do you gather these facts and then put them in to stories?
Merry: I do it in sort of two ways because I will read these things and then I’ll get an idea. It’s like, oh, this is awesome. I have to set up a book or a series around this. And then I’ll sort of go back in and do a little more research to fill in the specifics of what I want to know. But, the reading history and doing the research to begin with is the inspiration that I start with.
When I end up having specific questions, then I’ll go back and do more. Like I researched naval ships during the Napoleonic wars so much to write this “After The War” series. There was one day where I spent an hour looking up different names of naval ships and like specifications and how many guns they had and where they were deployed and all that so I could write one sentence.
Jeff: Oh, my goodness. That’s dedication. But, I like that because it means that you’re putting the effort to cast these stories into a reality instead of just kind of making it up as you go.
Merry: Well, yeah, I mean, and it’s the world building aspect of it, even though its history, even though it actually happened, it is world-building too.
But again, a lot of it, I just know from earning those degrees, reading all the books for fun. A lot of that is knowledge that’s already in my mind. I fact check myself. Did I remember this correctly? Because I’m notorious about remembering things incorrectly.
Jeff: Let’s talk a little bit more about the new book, “Never Judge a Duke By His Lover.” You mentioned that it’s a gay awakening story. Tell us a little bit more about the journey that Barrett and Anthony are going to go on in this book.
Merry: A guy who’s all about duty, about doing the right thing, and has felt that he has to live very rigidly because of it, and deny, a lot of things about himself, and a guy who is just a lot of fun, who was one of the guys who would pull all the tricks and get into trouble with everybody when they were on the ship. The duty versus having fun.
And I had fun sort of playing with, as they each discover their attraction for each other. And as Anthony realizes, oh, this is why it never really felt like it was working out so well with his wife who’s deceased. And he’s produced the heir. I actually had fun writing the kids too, because they just love Barrett so much. And there’s kind of a rivalry between wait, wait these are my kids. Yeah. But I really like your kids.
I like writing kids. I don’t have any kids, but maybe that’s why I like writing them so much. Anthony learning that duty means different things. Duty doesn’t just mean following a rigid path. It means providing the best for the people who you care about. And for Barrett, you know, having fun isn’t all just about no rules and being silly, there are responsibilities that you can bring fun to.
I guess it’s not giving too much of a spoiler away, but Barrett has a sister who is really, really angry at him because instead of going to London to help her with her season, help her find a husband, he went to hang out with his friends at this estate in Yorkshire. And she feels as if he didn’t do his duty. And again, spoiler, she shows up at the house in Yorkshire with very specific ideas of how he should be finding her husband. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I like throwing twists like that into my stories. It just, it’s fun.
Jeff: I like that you’re putting kids into because at least in the historicals I’ve read that are m/m, often we don’t see kids. We’ll see siblings who might be on the younger side, but you know, father and children don’t crop up at least in what I’ve been reading. And that puts a whole different spin. You’ve got to get the way that they were in history right too.
Merry: Oh yeah. Childhood is a modern invention. It really is from the time of the industrial revolution forward. But there’s a lot of expectations on the shoulders of the children of the aristocracy, because you’re the one who has to carry on the family name.
Again, I like writing children, especially when m/m characters are involved because I don’t know why people think that children and gay men don’t mix because that’s just blatantly absurd. This Mr. Morley, my third grade teacher in this terrible year of my life, he was gay and he made such an impact on my life, but he was a teacher. And that was back in the eighties. And of course he was not out as a teacher in the eighties.
So to me, these two things come together naturally. It’s that care and compassion and guidance. But it’s also very convenient for Anthony’s character because he doesn’t have to worry about producing an heir. He’s already got one, so he can do a lot more than he would be able to do otherwise with the necessity of finding a wife to produce the heir off of his shoulders.
Jeff: Now you’ve got more to come in the “After The War” series too that are already out there for pre-order. So people can leap right onto those. What can you tease us about what’s coming in the future books?
Merry: So for those who’ve read the first two books, there’s two ships and there’s two groups of guys. So far in the first two books, only the guys from the ship, The Majesty are there at the house in Yorkshire. But the guys from the other ship, The Hawk, show up in book three and book three, which is “Games Lovers Play,” is actually a lot about PTSD and the fact that, you know, war a difficult thing to go through. And the one character Red is really dealing with survivor’s guilt. Lucas who comes from the other ship, they have a long-term relationship, but he’s sort of in denial about whether he deserves it or not.
And then from there with the last two books in the series, it’s just exploring a lot of the different relationships between the guys. So there’s a character that shows up in “Never Judge a Duke By His Lover,” Percy, who is just, oh, he’s such a goofball, he’s an uninvited guest and he just doesn’t leave. So that final book is going to be fun and it’s going to be silly about Percy and just getting into trouble.
“One Good Deed Deserves a Lover.” He gets credit for something he didn’t do. And it just starts to snowball. And it turns into this big hero and he is not hero material. And the other guy, Clarence, his love interest in that, he keeps egging it on. I love writing lighthearted, silly books just as much as I love writing the juicy ones.
Jeff: And it’s nice, you know, as you’re reading a series to get that variety. To go from a lighthearted to something a little more deep and digging into some issues there.
We got to give a little hat tip to your cover artist.
Merry: She is amazing. Well, actually I have two. So for the “After The War” series, her name is Dar and , she just does these brilliant covers. And then the cover designer that I have for my self-published work, Erin. She’s amazing too. I have been so lucky when it comes to covers.
Jeff: Your covers overall are gorgeous across all of your books, but Dar in particular on the, “After The War” series there’s so old-school historical look right down to the type fonts. Then the way you’ve titled them too, is very old school romance book titling.
Merry: There’s such a thing with historical romance titles. I actually think a lot of them are just, okay. that’s I know that’s the standard. So I was trying to like play with that a little bit more. There’s just fun stuff that you can do with that. But with Dar with those covers, when I sent her the specifications for like, okay, so like maybe this, this, and this.
I was like, I don’t know where you’re going to find all these stock images and things to put together for m/m historical covers. Cause there’s not much out there, but, but what she came up with is just so perfect. It’s like definitely she deserves credit for that.
Jeff: Now you’ve got a lot of series and there’s one that’s running kind of concurrent alongside “After The War” with “Peter and the Wolves.” You say that this is a project that you started this year to really entertain yourself.
Jeff: Tell us a little bit about this series and then what is making it so entertaining for you?
Merry: I love Peter so much that it’s probably not healthy. So a lot of my writer friends have talked about how during the pandemic and during lockdown, they haven’t been able to write because everything just becomes so overwhelming. And they’re running into like roadblocks and things.
But for me, I stress write. It’s because writing is what I love. It’s always been my hobby so way back in January, just when things were their very January-ist. I got this idea for this book. It started out as a joke of all things, because I don’t know if you know, Chris Colfer, the actor and author. He was on “Glee.”
He had posted a picture that had been in “Rolling Stone” magazine during the first season of “Glee,” where he is kind of dressed like Pinocchio a little bit at a bar. And he’s looking very sweet and fae and innocent, surrounded by all of these bears wearing like leather gear and stuff like that. And he had posted that picture again, for some reason, I was like, oh, this is so funny.
And then I came up, oh, it’s like Peter and the bears. Oh, it’s like Peter and the wolves. And then I actually wrote a joke blurb for this series that I had come up with to send to some of my friends. But I was like, you know what? That’s actually a good idea.
So I sat down and just started writing. Now anyone who knows me and my writing process, I am the plottiest plotter who ever plotted. And I outline everything like down to specific details. And I have reams of notes that I write before I write each book and outlines. And it’s just so specific. That one I sat down and I just pantsed it.
I usually write in third person, but I wrote that in first person. I basically just let Peter tell his story and tell it through me. There’s a part of me that would love to write science fiction, fantasy, except that I’m not down with the whole magic thing necessarily.
So I call this non magical fantasy because it takes place in a different world. And I just started writing. For fun. For entertainment. Like I used to before it was my job, and let Peter just take me wherever he wanted to take me and it just kept going and it just kept going and it just kept going. And for those who have read the first book, yeah, I kind of changed my mind about who I wanted, the main love interest for Peter to be.
It’s not a Wolf shifter romance. Wolves are just the very cruel name that people from the cities in this frontier world I’ve created, call the people who live out in the forest. The men who love other men. It’s a derogatory term, but they sorta, adopted it and call themselves packs and you have pack leaders. It is a status symbol for a pack leader to have what they call a pup, which is basically a young guy who’s very fae and cute and adorable. But it’s sort of like a possession sort of a thing. And Peter gets captured and made a pup.
As I started expanding the world, okay, well, what’s going on in this world? What’s happening? It’s a frontier for a kingdom that is falling apart and by about halfway through the series. the kingdom is gone. They’ve had wars, they’ve had famines, they’ve had disease and there’s no governance anymore on the frontier. So without any order, without any organization, they have to just start from scratch and build new kingdoms and build a new civilization and build a new society.
And Peter, of course, who was the son of a ruling duke, in one of the cities ends up with the wolves as a pup, which is very low status. Out in the middle of nowhere, but by the second book, which is where the real love interest starts, and it’s an m/m/m story. he gets hooked up with the right people to be right in the center of action, as everything is going on. And he was born for a life of politics and he ends up in this life of politics.
And as you can see, I’m really passionate about this story, even though it’s just something I wrote to entertain myself. As I got about 500,000 words and four books into it. I started giving it to my friends to read, like I did back in high school when I wrote books, I would say here, guys, read this, tell me what you think. And they started saying, Merry, you have to publish this. This is good. This is really, really good. It’s like, really? Because it kind of feels weird to me. It’s just it’s so different from what I write. It’s erotica, which I don’t usually write. But boy, do I have fun writing it.
It’s this non magical fantasy. How do you classify that? No, seriously, Merry you’ve got to publish this. It was actually my cover designer, Erin who started reading it. And she said, you know, if you don’t request covers for these, I’m going to make them for you anyhow.
And I finished the entire six book series and then started publishing them. So they are all written. Four of them are published now the last two come out within the next three or four weeks. And yes, I’ve started writing a spinoff series just to entertain myself. Cause there’s a lot of characters and a lot going on in this world. And a lot more than I need to explore in various parts of the frontier, and in the old realm of this kingdom that’s falling apart. Peter and Magnus and Neil, my main characters, they are for various reasons, which I don’t want to spoil because the last book hasn’t come out yet, they cannot move from where they are.
And again, it’s something I did to entertain myself, to de-stress, to take myself out of this crazy world we’re in and put myself into another crazy world that has similar problems. Oh, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I was driving around on some errands over the summer, and I was thinking about Peter and Magnus and Neil and I was suddenly hit with this wave of absolute grief because these people aren’t real and I’ll never meet them in real life. And I was like, okay, Merry, calm down a second. When you’re a writer, your characters are so real. They’re so real.
Jeff: I was struck by the fact that you said you were the plottest plotter ever, and then you flipped over to being a pantser. Did you stay a pantser through the entire series?
Merry: Oh yeah. In general, like I figured out okay, by the end of this book, X, Y, and Z needs to happen, but let’s see how we get there. Then Peter would throw a wrench in the works and oh, okay. So we’re going there now. All right. Okay. I guess that’s where we’re going.
It’s a really great pallet cleanser in a way, because the thing about self publishing and the whole world of indie publishing these days is we can publish so fast that it means that we’re writing so much all the time and I have over 135 books out across about three or four different sub genres, and sometimes you just need to switch things up and do it differently so that you don’t burn out.
I was really close to burning out this spring, but writing something so different in such a different fashion with such a different voice stopped me from just completely jumping off the cliff.
Jeff: It’s great to hear that you just toss things up completely to do “Peter and the Wolves,” and to try to find that pallet cleanser.
We’ve got to talk about how you got started. You’ve mentioned already that you were 10 when it was decided you were going to be a writer and you’ve got this line in your bio that I just love that it kicked in one day, when you realized you didn’t have to wait for the creative writing assignment to be given to you at school, that you could just go write something. What sparked you into being a storyteller?
Merry: I had a really difficult, uncomfortable, painful childhood in a lot of ways because my parents split when I was six years old and my mom didn’t see it coming. And we ended up in this very small suburb of Philadelphia with a very definite religious bent to it. And I never felt as if I fit in that town, but I always felt as though I was being crammed into the box that I should fit into in this town. And I escaped through reading a lot of things.
But there was that moment that was almost spiritual when I was in third grade where I would come into school every day. And I was like, oh please, Mr. Morely, please, please, please give us a creative writing assignment. I want to do it so badly. And it just kept not happening. I was like, oh, today, maybe today will be the day. Oh. And then that voice in my head, which came from somewhere else was like, you know, you don’t have to wait for Mr. Morley to assign you a creative writing assignment. You can just write something. And I did. And I never looked back.
But the ironic thing is too, which probably again, delve into the deep psychology of coming from a broken home. So my parents split when I was six, a year and a half later my granddad, my mom’s dad who become like my father figure, died suddenly of a heart attack. About a year and a half after that, when I was in third grade, my two older half-brothers, who were my dad’s from his first marriage who he left with my mom. When he left her, my dad remarried the woman who he cheated on my mom with and asked for his two sons back. So like all of these tumultuous things connected to family and connected to love were just like slipping through my fingers. And eight year old, ten-year-old Merry didn’t understand what was going on.
Then right from the start, everything that I wrote turned into a love story, whether I wanted it to, or not. Everything I was writing was about people falling in love. Everything was about people being loved. I don’t want to sound sad while saying that’s from a kid who did not feel like she was getting love at all, because I was, I developed anxiety disorders because of all of these severe separation events in early childhood. And, I was picked on by my classmates, and I was disruptive because of these panic attacks I would have.
And my mom, meanwhile, was going through everything she was going through as a single mother with two children at that point. And we moved in with my grandmother who told me your mother deserves better than you. And, you know, why can’t you be more like your brother, who was just like seen as the perfect child? So I think that writing for me as this kid in late elementary school, in middle school was therapy. And I did not even know what I was doing, but I was processing this weird relationship with love that I had going on through writing these love stories.
Looking back as an adult, I’m like, whoa, what was going on in little Merry’s brain? I’ve never thrown away anything that I’ve written. I have boxes and boxes of spiral bound notebooks that I have not looked at for 30 years that have all of these original stories that I wrote. For someone who was not treated well at school and not treated well at home, it was a great way to go to someplace where I was happy.
Jeff: At what point did it become, I’m going to do this for a career?
Merry: Well, the, the funny thing is I thought that what I wanted to do for a career and then my twenties happened.
And when I was in college, I guess I was about eighteen, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I put a lot of things on hold to just be there for her and to just help with that whole thing. She fought it for eight years and then passed away when I was 26.
I just, sort of, had put so many things on hold, and by that point I’m like, well, I’m living on my own. I have to make the rent. I have to pay for all these things. And I had dabbled in traditional publishing and I didn’t like the feeling that I had to get somebody to approve of what I was writing in order to be published. I just didn’t like the whole rigmarole. So I gave it up for awhile.
Until, about 2007 or so, people started talking about this new thing on the horizon called self publishing. And I was like, wait, you mean I can publish books and I don’t have to get some weird person up in New York City to actually like my books in order to publish it?
So the minute I heard about self publishing, I was like that. That’s what I want to do. I was really lucky because the very first editor that I ever found Alison Dasho, she was doing freelance work at the time. Now she works for some of the Amazon imprints, but she has been the editor for many, many, many, many award-winning historical and other romance novels.
And boy, did I pick the right person to start out with, because she taught me so much about the craft, for as long as she was able to be my editor. Cause she had to drop all of her freelance clients when she went with Amazon. But I have been blessed with such great luck at every step of my career between editors, between my cover designers, and just friendships with other authors that have helped with promotional opportunities and gotten me in front of more readers.
It’s one of those things of, wow. Look at all this good luck or is it fate? Is that because this is what I have been put here on this earth to do, or is it because I work really, really hard. So little of each.
Jeff: And you spread the romance writing love among so many kinds of characters and so many pairings. Has that been the case throughout your writing history that you’ve written m/m, m/m/m, and m/f and f/f and just all kinds of pairings?
Merry: Well, it’s just because I’ve experienced so many people in my life and there’s so much going on in the world. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a place where I didn’t feel as I fit. So I went out to try to find other things. I’ve been involved in theater and boy, the people who are attracted to theater, they’re a fun bunch of people. And, you know, I lived in Florida for college.
After my mom passed away, I just had this great idea that I’d reconnect with my dad. So I lived in Alabama, which didn’t last too long for reasons. And then I travel a lot and I have just friends from all over because I like people. And it’s been amazing to just have experienced so many different kinds of people myself, because you realize there’s, there’s so many different stories to tell there’s not just one kind of couple, there’s not just one kind of struggle. It’s fun to think about all of them.
Jeff: As you came up as a writer and kind of started to find what your style is, who are some of the authors who kind of inspired what you’re telling now?
Merry: Oh, wow. Well, you know, in terms of historical romance, I have always loved Elizabeth Hoyt because she has had some interesting, different kinds of characters in her stories too. Not all of them are nobility. And I guess maybe from about five to 10 years ago, I really admire Courtney Milan in the way that she brings history into her historical but also tweaks history. So that, wait a minute. Is that how it really happened? I got to go look that up. Somebody once compared me to her and I felt so privileged. And when I first started reading, m/m I was reading Jordan Hawk, and way that blends the Victorian world and magic together was just really fascinating. I was like, Ooh, I want to do stuff like that too.
But also just with all the different authors that I’ve admired, then trying to find my own style in the middle of that. It’s been really exciting too, because. I will admit that there’s a lot of books that I read that I felt were really influential and I cannot remember who wrote them, but I remember the way they made me feel.
I love unusual characters. Especially in historical romance, it’s all about the duke. But I don’t like writing about the duke. I actually wrote a whole series, which is connecting my Western series with my first Victorian series that’s the people downstairs like the servants in the house. I was like, huh, has anyone done this? I dunno, I’m going to do it. I’m going to try it. And it all goes back to that Renaissance Fair thing of wow, these were actual lives. People actually lived that way. I love books that give me that impression.
Jeff: What would you say are the trademarks of a Merry Farmer story?
Merry: I hope that they just make people happy. I like writing a fluffy romance. I know it’s not necessarily the most popular thing these days, but I want people to smile while reading it. There’s a lot of great dark stuff out there too. But I just, I love to have fun with what I’m writing, but also to learn something about history, because I include a lot of the actual historical facts.
Maybe it’s in my name because, spoiler, Merry is my actual real life name. And I was once told by Jonathan Maberry, who writes zombie books, like you got the perfect writer name, don’t ever change it. It’s like, okay. But I want that impression to come across. I want people to have a really good time reading it and just smile and then go back to it when they’re having a bad day and read it again to get another smile, even though I write some serious stuff.
Jeff: That’s one of the things that we like so much, cause we’re, especially in the last couple of years, it’s been nice guys doing nice things who may have some issues, but it’s also not super heavy angst is kind of like the sweet spot for what we’d like to read lately.
Merry: One of the things that I don’t generally tend to write alpha males. Because, I don’t really care for them in real life either. I like those beta heroes, the ones who try to be the nice guy and yet still end up winning the guy or the girl at the end of the day. Because there’s so much to be said for spreading kindness in the world. And there’s so much to be said for just everybody trying to teach each other, how to get through this thing in a positive way. Instead of just constant conflict and angst. I don’t mind a little bit of angst and again, the “Peter” books are very different from what I write, because there are so much darker than what I write, or at least they were at the beginning. There are some definite light moments as you get further along in that series. But it’s just, I like to be happy. It’s a way that I have coped with everything going on and I know that’s very much needed right now.
Also, I think in terms of the shows that people keep recommending for me to watch on TV. My first question is, is it dark? Oh yeah, but it’s… Sorry. I can’t read it. I can’t watch it. Like “The Umbrella Academy.” It’s like, Ooh, I like the concept of “The Umbrella Academy.” Watched the first episode. Nope. Not going to be able to do this one for a couple more years. I’ll go back to watching “Glee” for the 12th time in a row. But you know, things like that because that’s what I feel like we need right now.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely.
You mentioned getting the historical facts, right. And besides the story that you deliver, you actually deliver the historical notes, to give people more to think about too. Do you enjoy writing that piece of the book or is it kinda like the more academic, I just have to put this in here sort of material?
Merry: I love writing the author’s notes almost as much as I love writing the actual story. This is the part of me that almost became a history teacher before my life took a different turn. Just because I find it also fascinating, and I find it also real and I really want to get across a lot of these messages. Particularly in my m/m romance about how everything we think we know about queer history is probably wrong because there was a concerted effort by historians in the mid 20th century to adjust the message, shall we say, to get across a certain viewpoint, that is just not the way things were.
And in my reading history books for fun thing lately, I’ve been reading a lot. Well, it’s so funny that it’s considered a new field of study. You know, queer history. It’s like, it’s not a new field of study. This has always been going on, but a lot of things are being taken out from where they’ve been swept under the carpet.
And I love including actual historical facts about how men and women did get away with same-sex relationships. They weren’t immediately dragged out of the closet and killed if they set one foot wrong. One of my favorite stories from history is Fanny and Stella, who were a pair of female impersonators from London in the 1860s who were arrested for throwing raucous parties and seducing young men.
And they were brought up on trial, and unlike Oscar Wilde, 30, 40 years later, they got off because of popular opinion, and everybody loved these guys. And when the judge let them go free without charging them with anything, there was cheering in the streets when they walked out of the courthouse. You know, that’s not something that people think would have happened, but as with everything else, history is not a straight line from down to up. It goes up and down in the fortunes of people, rise and fall.
Well, it’s like we’re witnessing this in our own time, right now, all the progress that people have made for women, for minorities, for the LGBTQ community, it could be taken away because history is not a straight line of progress. It goes up and down and you have to fight for things.
So I love writing these notes at the end of my books to highlight the different historical points that I’ve brought up in any particular book to say, Hey, look, this actually happened. I’m not just making this stuff up guys. And I’ve actually been contemplating lately trying to translate that into some sort of a blog or podcast thing. Oh, time and I, we get along and we don’t get along.
Jeff: But do it, do it.
Merry: Yeah. I know. I do, I love it. I just feel like, oh my gosh, there’s so much more research I have to do. And then that’ll take another 15 years, you know, as it does.
Jeff: What have you read recently that you would recommend to our listeners to check out?
Merry: Oh, I’m almost embarrassed to say this because what are the things that I swore up down and sideways that I would never read because they’re just too weird and I don’t like them and they’re just not my thing. I am never going to read omegaverse, never going to read mpreg. I’m never going to read anything with shifters.
So guess what I’ve been reading all summer long? I’ve gotten so hooked on this “Forbidden Desires” series by Piper Scott and Virginia Kelly which is dragon shifter, omegaverse and mpreg. It’s amazing, and it’s so funny and the characters are so great.
And then the other series that I have been so into this year, from a much less well-known author Taylor J Gray is this “Isaac” series, which is again, things I didn’t think I would ever be interested in reading. It’s like BDSM about a sex slave, Isaac. She is so good at character and so amazing at world-building. It’s just so absorbing and I’ve been waiting with bated breath for all those books.
I actually friended Taylor on Facebook and now I bug her. When’s the next book? When’s the next book coming out? And she started reading “Peter” last week too. So now she’s like, Ooh, Ooh. But you know, I love that interaction with other authors. I love how we can encourage each other and, and build each other up.
The more we encourage people to read, the more they will read and the more that we lift each other up, the more we’ll all be doing well. So I’m all about supporting my fellow authors. Even if it’s just fan girling them in messenger, when like when’s the next one coming out, when’s the next one coming out?
Jeff: Sometimes, you know, that’s the best thing you can do is prompt them to let them know that you want it.
Merry: It means everything to know that somebody is reading and enjoying your work because let’s face it, our job as writers is to be constantly criticized or judged. That’s what reviews are. And I, I have a love, hate relationship with reading my own reviews. I try not to, and yet somebody recently made a really good case why I should. I haven’t decided if I want to or not, but it’s constant criticism in a way. So when we support each other, when we encourage each other, and cheerlead each other, it just, it makes a world of difference. It really does.
Jeff: We’ve talked a little bit about what’s coming up with “After The War,” there’s more “Peter and The Wolves” coming. What else should we be on the lookout for in the coming months?
Merry: Well, I’m really hoping to start the sequel series to my “Brotherhood” series. Next, next year, I think next spring, I should start publishing those books. For those who’ve read “The Brotherhood” series, in the last two books of that 10 book series, they were in New York city and I introduced a character, Jasper Werther, who works at this club, The Slippery Slope, which is based off of The Slide, this nightclub in the 1880s and 1890s.
And I have this whole idea for a series set in New York city. And I was actually thinking, I don’t know if anybody has written historical m/m set anywhere other than London or Europe. So okay, this should be fun. I don’t know if anyone’s doing this. And I live close enough to New York, that I can go up and visit to do my research which is always fun.
I’m a little bit hesitant about that because if I do it right, I need to bring in a lot of aspects of drag culture, but that’s not a culture that I have been a part of very much myself to this point. So I just really want to make sure I treat it very carefully so that I don’t do it wrong.
But there was so much going on in New York City in the 1880s and 1890s with gay culture that I just really want to dive into. And I have to give a shout out to one of my fans, Ricky, who lives in New York City and just, I put him in as a small character in one of the books in “The Brotherhood.” and I think that his character is going to get an entire book in this new series. That’s for you Ricky.
Jeff: And what’s the best way for people to keep up with you online so they know what all this new stuff is on the way?
Merry: Well, the two places that I am most active are Instagram, because Instagram is the happy social media where people just post nice pictures without yelling at each other.
And I believe that my Instagram handle is just MerryFarmer, all one word. And then on Facebook I have my Facebook reader group which if, I think if you search it’s Merry Farmer’s Reader Group where I post daily in there. And I’ve got a great group of people who are really active and interactive there.
And those are really the two best places to find me. I have a Twitter account. I have email. I have a Facebook profile. I actually don’t post on my Facebook profile half as much as I do in my group for reasons. But yeah, I’m out there. Come and find me.
Jeff: We’ll link up to all those and all the books that we talked about as we chatted. Merry it’s been so fun talking to you best of luck as you release the rest of “After The War” and “Peter and the Wolves.”
Merry: Thanks. I was so giddy when you guys asked me to come on and talk. I love you guys so much.
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 also has links to everything that we talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And thanks again to Merry for spending some time with us. I loved hearing about how she came up with “Peter and the Wolves,” creating an entire series simply to entertain herself and then being encouraged by friends to put it out into the world, even though it’s so different from everything else that she wrote, it was such a wonderful story. And frankly encouraged me a little bit to break outside of the writing box a little bit more often too.
Will: All right. I think that’s going to do it for now. Coming up next on Thursday in episode 342, it’s the Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode for the month of October.
Jeff: Yes, it is. You’re not going to want to miss our deep dive discussion on “This is Not a Horror Movie” by Sara Dobie Bauer. It is the perfect book to talk about in this Halloween week.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we want to thank you so much for listening. And we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kind of stories that we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then 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.