Jeff & Will announce the guests for the Holiday Story Time segment of the Big Gay Fiction Fest, which takes place on Saturday, December 4.
Jeff reviews tick, tick… BOOM!, a movie version of a Jonathan Larson musical that recently premiered on Netflix.
Jeris Jean joins us to talk about Romantic Hero, the first book in her new Coleridge Cliffs series. We also discuss the Hollywood Hopefuls series, find out about the author Jeris is obsessed with, and find out how she went from academia to romance author. Plus, Jeris has some great book recommendations.
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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.
- Big Gay Fiction Fest website
- tick, tick… BOOM! on Netflix
- Jeris Jean Interview
- Jeris Jean: website | Facebook | TikTok | Instagram
- Romantic Hero by Jeris Jean on Amazon
- Hollywood Hopefuls series by Jeris Jean on Amazon
- Episode 335 – Big Gay Fiction Book Club September 2021: “Running Lines” by Jeris Jean on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Arden St. Ives series by Alexis Hall on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Lucy Lennox on Amazon | Kobo
- Downton Abbey on Netflix
- Bridgerton on Netflix
- Jane Austen on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Opening Lines Spotify list
- All The Cuts and Scars we Hide by Garry Michael on Amazon
- About Last Night by Michaela Cole on Amazon
- CU Hockey series by Eden Finley & Saxon James on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Historic Event by Jeris Jean on Amazon (pre-order until February 14, 2022)
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we head off to college in Minnesota with author Jeris Jean.
Will: Welcome to episode 347 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate bands of gay romance fiction. I’m Will, and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance readers. It’s great to have you back for another show.
Will: I am so excited. We are less than two weeks away from Big Gay Fiction Fest. Now, this is the online reader event that we’ve created, especially for fans of gay romance fiction. And in the spirit of the season, we’ll be concentrating on the latest holiday romance reads.
This virtual book festival is 100% online so you can enjoy hearing from your favorite authors, talking about their newest releases, all from the comfort of your own home. Jeff and I will be there serving as hosts and authors joining us will be Lucy Lennox, Annabeth Albert, Garrett Leigh, Charlie Novak. And, as we’re dotting all the I’s and crossing the T’s behind the scenes, we wanted to let you know that in addition to all those great authors taking part, we’ve also recently added a Holiday Story Time segment in addition to everything else that’s being offered on Saturday, December 4th.
Narrator Kirt Graves will be reading one of the delightful stories from author E.J. Russell’s recently released holiday story collection, “Christmas Kisses.” Now, I’m a big fan of E.J.’s stories and I am so glad that she and Kirt have agreed to join us on what is sure to be the jolliest and gayest book themed, holiday party ever.
We hope that you can join us for all the fun on Saturday, December 4th. To reserve your free spot, just go to biggayfictionfest.com
Jeff: Yes. We very much look forward to seeing everybody in the virtual audience.
Now, before we get to the interview for this week, I want to take just a moment to tell you about a movie that I have recently seen. The musical “tick, tick… BOOM!” just dropped on Netflix and I had the opportunity to catch it on the big screen, right before it got to the streaming service.
The film is an adaptation of the stage musical of the same name, which was written by Jonathan Larson, the composer of “Rent.” “Tick, tick… BOOM!” in its original form was a one person show that Jonathan performed and it told the story of what he felt like turning 30 in the year 1990 and how he was at a bit of a crossroads because he hadn’t yet written a hit show like other famous composers had mainly he was looking at Stephen Sondheim there who was a major influence on him and had once given Jonathan some feedback during a workshop that he was part of.
The story takes place over a couple of weeks as Jonathan prepares for a stage reading of his latest musical, which was a scifi commentary on modern life called “Superbia.” He’s struggling to write one last song, stressed by a mountain of bills to pay. He also needs to talk to his girlfriend who has gotten a job outside of New York City. And then there’s his best friend who is also going through a lot of transitions as well. And of course all around him, he sees what New York City is like in the 1990s. He sees the AIDS epidemic exploding around him. It just all piles up on him.
Now at its core “tick, tick… BOOM!” is a show about following your passions, but not losing touch with the important people around you. I saw this show three times in New York after it premiered in its revised three person format where one person plays Jonathan and the other two are playing all the other characters that he interacts with.
The musical is so very powerful and so moving. And I love shows that focus on creativity as their core and trying to follow that passion. The movie uses the structure of the three person show really effectively as it even expands from that. We see Jonathan performing the show in the movie, but we also see the real events that are unfolding as well. It’s a really effective concept that Lin-Manuel Miranda, who makes his directing debut, came up with, to craft this into a really amazing movie. And Andrew Garfield. Andrew finds so many different ways to really stretch his acting muscles. I mean, sure. We all know that he played Spider-Man, but then he took a Tony winning turn on Broadway in “Angels in America.” And now we see him portraying Jonathan Larson. Andrew worked for a year to get the singing right. And I have to say that it really paid off and he even embodies Jonathan really well. We see historic footage of Jonathan performing in “tick, tick… BOOM!” as well as some other footage. And you can really see the comparisons there in the closing credits.
And I was really excited to get to see this show, which is one of my favorite musicals come to the screen. I highly recommend you give it a try. You’ll hear the seeds of “Rent” which Jonathan was working on when he wrote some of the “tick, tick… BOOM!” Songs. You’ll find some cool “Rent” easter eggs in the film, and keep an eye out as you’re watching the movie for all of the people that show up in the Sunday brunch scene it’s truly an eye-popping event there for musical theater fans.
So yes, I highly recommend “tick, tick… BOOM!” and you can find it streaming right now on Netflix. It could be a perfect thing to work into your viewing if you’re taking a break from all of the holiday fair.
And now it’s time to hear from Jeris Jean. We fell in love with Jeris’s books when we read “Running Lines,” which is the first book in the “Hollywood Hopefuls” series. And of course that was the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection back in September.
We knew we wanted to have Jeris on the show the next time she released a book and that’s right now. This week, “Romantic Hero” comes out as she moves from Hollywood to a college in Minnesota. And yes, these series are connected, you’ll hear her talk about it in just a second. We talk about the launch of the “Coleridge Cliffs” series. Of course, we talk about “Hollywood Hopefuls” as well. And she’s got a great story of how she went from academia to being an editor, to being a novelist. To top it off, she’s got some great book recs too.
Jeris Jean Interview
Jeff: Jeris welcome to the podcast, it is so exciting to have you here.
Jeris: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Jeff: We absolutely went insane for “Hollywood Hopefuls” earlier this year. It was one of our Book Club selections and we’ll definitely be talking about that a little bit. But we’ve got to start off with the brand new series you’re launching this week called “Coleridge Cliffs.”
Tell us a little bit about this new series and the first book with “Romantic Hero.”
Jeris: Okay, so the new series “Coleridge Cliffs” is set in this insulated harbor town on the north shore of one of the Great Lakes. So it’s kind of this gorgeous rugged wilderness area. And the draw besides the fact that it’s a harbor, is this college called The College of Coleridge Cliffs. That’s sort of like this elite academic hub.
The series follows the academics at the college, so the staff and faculty, as well as some of the students and the locals have Coleridge Cliffs that deal with the people at the college in various ways. So it’s maybe a little bit broody or, and a little bit gothic vibe compared to “Hollywood Hopefuls,” but it’s also a lot of fun and kind of still the same heat to heart ratio as the other series has.
Jeff: On the shores of lake Michigan, is this place real? I grew up in Michigan, which is why you’ve now peaked my interest with around the Great Lakes.
Jeris: So it’s loosely based on a town on the shore of Lake Superior, in northern Minnesota. And I did steal some pieces of reality from the town. And I may or may not have gone to a major gothic college for a semester in that town. And so some of it’s real, but a lot of it is me making stuff up that I wish was real.
Jeff: And that’s all the fun part of the fiction, right?
Jeff: I can’t imagine how cold it must be in the dead of winter going to school in a place that’s parked on Lake Superior.
Jeris: It’s frigid. Frigid. Yup.
Jeff: What was your inspiration to bring librarian and professor together? Just those two words together just gives me all the ooooh that’s going to be good vibes.
Jeris: Well, okay, so my background is actually in academia. I spent about a decade teaching college English. So not only did I spend my years in college on campuses, but then I also taught on a campus for a long time. And so I have just all this sort of life stuff that relates to the faculty and the staff and the students and everybody at a college campus. So I just ran with it.
Jeff: Nice. How did you decide librarian and professor for the first in the series?
Jeris: So the professor is actually a spinoff character from “Hollywood Hopefuls.” So if people have read all the way through to book four, there’s a character called Calum, who is kind of a side character. And he ends up having a major heartbreak happened to him in “Hollywood Hopefuls.” It’s not a spoiler because he is a side character, but he packs up and moves from LA to Coleridge Cliffs, and he’s a professor. So that’s where that came from.
And the librarian was just kind of a…
I didn’t want it to be another professor. I didn’t really want to delve into professor, student in the first book. So I thought who would he be interacting with potentially on this campus? That might be a good love interests for him.
Jeff: What a life shift for Calum going from sunny LA to Minnesota.
Jeris: Yep. It was a knee-jerk reaction after getting his heart torn out and he thought what’s the opposite of Los Angeles and that’s where he went.
Jeff: What can you tease us about the love story here?
Jeris: It’s a little bit of a second chance romance.
I did this serial earlier this year where I wrote, I think it was five parts, of just this little interaction of an almost sort of hookup between a librarian and a professor in the campus library. And it ended up being like the kernel of inspiration for this book. So Calum and Theo, is the other main character in this novel, they had this interaction one night on campus. And then they just kind of both went their separate ways and avoided the other because they felt embarrassed and they weren’t really sure which one of them called it off or pulled back. And it was kind of a lot of confusion.
So, professor Calum is avoiding the library and Theo is noticing him avoiding the library and they end up having to quit the avoidance, because they’re, co-advisors on a student project. They didn’t realize that they would be, but they ended up showing up at the same meeting and they have to work together now.
Jeff: What a great way to throw two people together, trying to make avoidance. I mean, it must be a small campus in a small town, avoidance is already hard. But then a professor avoiding the library. That’s just kind of like very difficult to do.
Jeris: Yes, it is.
Jeff: It sounds like you enjoyed building this universe out from the pieces of like you’re going to school and then your other academia. A different kind of world than you had to build in “Hollywood Hopefuls.” What was like the, the difference moving your own universe from LA to Minnesota.
Jeris: I think that in some ways “Hollywood Hopefuls” was more challenging for me because it required a lot of research into things like film sets and even just the different roles in an actor’s life. Like the staff and things like that. I didn’t know a lot of that. Most of my knowledge before writing the book was just what I’ve seen on like television shows. How they depict, you know, the behind the scenes stuff. And so I didn’t get super technical on anything, but it was research, and I had to kind of research a lot for that.
With “Coleridge Cliffs” and academia, I’m just basing it off of bits and pieces of campuses and people that I’ve interacted with and just different things like that. It’s much easier in some ways, but it’s also the shift in mood from kind of the light Southern California vibe to trying to make this a little bit more like atmospheric and maybe a little bit broodyer. That’s the challenge this time.
Jeff: You used the word gothic earlier, which really kind of caught my attention because you can certainly have gothic campuses. How does that vibe kind of carry its way through what you’re planning for the series?
Jeris: Okay, so that’s actually a huge part of the series. I love gothic literature and so like my favorite book of all time is “Frankenstein.” And so like the Swiss Alps and the dark content and all of that kind of stuff. So I’ve actually tied it in pretty, pretty heavily to the storylines. Coleridge Cliffs’s claim to fame, besides having this great academic institution, is that they market their town on tragic tourism. And what I mean by that is, like there was a major ship wreck in their harbor that killed the entire crew. And so they’ve got, like, tourist attraction essentially surrounding that. Or, there was an old miner who made a fortune, you know, settled at this harbor town and has this enormous sprawling mansion, but there was like a grizzly, double murder that happened there.
And so the town kind of doubles down on this grim dark history and they use that to their advantage to create like a tourist market for themselves. And so that kind of darker gothic vibe flows through all of the books in some way.
Jeff: Oh, that’s fascinating. Especially thinking about how that could impact the school itself and who chooses to go to that school? I can’t wait to see what you do with this series.
And to that in what can you tease us about the future books of the series? After we meet the librarian and the professor, where do we go from there?
Jeris: So what ended up happening with “Hollywood Hopefuls” was that in books three and four, I started to get really attached to writing a little bit more ensemble style, as far as like family and side characters.
So “Coleridge Cliffs” it’s got a lot of interconnected characters, so not only for the you know, the logic of it being a campus, there’s a lot of people that live there, work there, but I also have plans in place that if I do want to continue this series, there’s a lot of, character possibilities there going forward. So I can say that aside from “Romantic Hero,” there will be at least one more thing in this world that will come out.
Jeff: Very cool. And I like how you’ve extended your universe just by having “Hollywood Hopefuls” and “Coleridge Cliff’s” kind of connect who knows, who could go visit where.
Jeris: That’s true. Yeah. I kind of thought that was a fun thing to have, like that thread of something being related. And it is, I guess, worth noting that you don’t have to have read one series to understand the other or anything like that, but if you are a reader who’s gone through all of the books. It’s just like a bonus little piece of trivia that it’s a spinoff.
Jeff: Interconnected universe always just make me happy. It’s like, oh, look, who’s here. Look who we were referencing over here. It’s so much fun.
What was your favorite scene to write in “Romantic Hero?”
Jeris: My favorite scene to write in “Romantic Hero” was probably the first scene where Calum and Theo realized that they are the co-faculty advisers for the student project. And not only is it like, you know, one or two meetings, it’s like a semester long project that they’re going to have to co-advise and just the initial panic moment. And then the, how am I going to play this? And they both have very different ways of handling it and how they want to play it in front of each other. And I think that was probably my favorite scene, because it really established like what their personalities are like, and clearly showed that they both are very effected by the other, no matter what they want to say.
Jeff: Those are the best, those sort of meet cutes where it’s like I really don’t want to see you right now.
Jeff: Now you arrived on the m/m romance scene just at the beginning of this past year with “Hollywood Hopefuls,” which of course was a book club selection. Will’s read book two, reviewed it on the show and absolutely loved it. Tell us a little bit about that series for those who haven’t heard us talk about it enough.
Jeris: Yeah, so “Hollywood Hopefuls” is this low angst m/m almost rom-comy type series, set in Hollywood. And so it’s this group of queer men, essentially that follows in various roles in the film industry. So the first book is two actors on the set of the same TV show. The second one is a personal trainer and a talent agent. The third book is an executive and a barista on the film lot. And book four ends up being kind of some peripheral characters to other people that we’ve met along the way.
It’s a lot of pop culture references and a lot of, I think there’s a lot of lightheartedness, humor. banter, and fairly steamy as well. And then sweetness it’s, I’m not afraid to have like schmoopy scenes in there and so, just kind of like light happy, fun books.
Jeff: It was so much in line with what we like right now, which is nice guys doing nice things. And there was so much just wonderful talk between the characters. It was so just… I could have just kept going with them you know, just books, them, together. I have to ask, cause I haven’t gotten to book three yet is the barista we see they’re the one who’s always dishing coffee in book one.
Jeris: He is, yes,
Jeff: Awesome I’m glad he got a book.
Jeris: I have to say, like, I know I’m not supposed to say this probably because I love all of the books that I’ve written, of course. But I feel like I hit my stride in book three, as far as like finding a comfortable voice for me as a writer. And so book three, book four in “Hollywood Hopefuls,” I’m really proud of how those turned out, because it was kind of like, I felt maybe I had my sea legs a little bit more at that point.
Jeff: Wow, I can’t imagine then what those are like, because as a book in general, not to mention a debut, that first book is just wonderful.
What inspired “Hollywood Hopefuls,” especially given your background in academia, that “Coleridge Cliffs” didn’t come first, but “Hollywood Hopefuls” did.
Jeris: There was a very specific piece of inspiration for this, and I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it, but it is inspired on something I saw on like a gossip blog about a real actor and another actor that he was seen wandering around with. And there were, was a lot of speculation about the nature of their relationship and it was one sort of more established, kind of A lister type actor, or at least in some circles, and then a younger, pretty, newcomer to Hollywood.
And I was just very first of all, like excited to see them as a couple. And then I thought, okay, well, this would be a fun story to see how they got together and how that would ripple through their different circles in Hollywood.
Jeff: Especially, yeah making it a workplace story and a workplace rom-com no less, was such a just a nice breath of fresh air in the midst of everything.
Jeris: That’s how it was for me to write it. And you know, it kind of started as something that It was kind of a, this would be fun to try. And then after a little bit of writing Running Lines,” I thought, okay, no, I’m actually going to really try and do this and make it into an actual novel. And it was really like a good time and point in my life to do that and make that shift into trying something new.
Jeff: So I’m curious, is “Frost Manor” more “Downton Abbey” or more, “Bridgerton.”
Jeris: I viewed it more as “Downton Abbey” when I wrote it, because I hadn’t seen “Bridgerton” yet.
Jeff: That’s fair.
Jeris: When I wrote it. But it’s, it’s a little bit of both, I think.
I’ve had one of my friends say, I want “Frost Manor” to be real, but I want it to be gay. So can you just write the next series, historical gay “Bridgerton?” And I was like, you know, that sounds like something I would love to write at some point.
Jeff: You could write the actual tie-ins to “Frost Manor.”
Jeris: Yeah, for sure.
Jeff: That would be amazing I can’t think of any author who’s done that sort of thing where you write the tie in to the thing that you wrote into the book in the first place. That would be awesome.
Jeris: Yeah, I have some ideas about making Easter eggs like that. We’ll see. As long as people keep reading my books. I got ideas a-plenty.
Jeff: Keep reading everyone, cause Will and I want more books.
We talked a little bit about Hollywood versus academia. In your Hollywood research, what was the thing that surprised you the most to learn?
Jeris: I think one of the things that surprised me most to learn was probably how competitive and how fickle a lot of the relationships are between the actors and the people that represent the actors and how political it is. And so I did delve into that, just a tiny bit in “Running Lines” with the agents and things like that and the agencies. But I didn’t get into it too heavily, but I did see that there’s a lot of that as far as like behind the scenes kind of, business side stuff that, like it makes a big impact on their careers even. So that was pretty interesting to see. But less interesting to me than writing about the actors falling in love and love on set.
Jeff: What got you started writing? You said in your bio that something kind of clicked when you were in your thirties. What was that thing and where you even dabbling in writing before you got to that point?
Jeris: So, like I mentioned, I’ve always loved books, so that was kind of my, you know, I’ve always loved reading.
And so when I went to college, I studied literature, and my degrees are in literature. I taught literature courses for years and I didn’t really do a lot with creative writing. I had done just a tiny bit here and there because I’m more like to just read and talk about the books, but I had done a tiny bit.
So there was one, one point where I was probably in my mid twenties and I got invited to this Halloween party where everyone was supposed to bring a story that they’ve written. And this is like the lamest Halloween party on earth, but this is what academics do. And so I wrote this short story and came to this party and it was a bunch of other, you know, english people, MFA’s and whatever.
We had like this guest celebrity judge, and I can’t even remember who it was, but it was somebody who was supposedly important. And we read the stories and he voted mine is like the winning story. I was like, wow, like maybe I can write something. And so I didn’t really do much with it beyond that.
And then, during the pandemic. I had been working as an editor. So I’d done the teaching part. Then I did some editing and I ended up kind of pulling back from all of those things during the pandemic. And then this inspiration sparked, and I started writing this for fun. And then it just kind of clicked, like the things that I love the most about teaching and about editing, it almost all made more sense for me to do the writing part.
I’m not explaining this well, I can tell, but it just never occurred to me that might be the thing that, that I’m actually best at doing and happiest doing. And so when I actually gave it a good try. Then it kind of was like, yes, yep. This is, this is it. I’ve been like on the periphery of this for a long time, but this is what I should do.
Jeff: That’s wonderful. I love origin stories, just to hear how people kind of came to it. I love how a Halloween challenge of a sort, just kind of led to there. And I think that sounds like a pretty cool Halloween party.
You know, everybody bring a story and let’s see what you bring. Innovative idea.
What drew you into writing romance?
Jeris: That’s a good one. So I kind of had this ridiculous, like stigma against romance, not personally, but I’ve been surrounded by that a lot. Going through school, like, especially as a lit major there’s kind of a lot of people that are books snobs, and any sort of genre fiction is not good enough, you know?
And so you can’t read mystery, you can’t read romance. Like if you do, you know, you should hide that because it’s embarrassing for some reason. But I kind of got to the point where I just like what I like and I love reading romance novels. And so, I thought if I was going to spend time writing something, it might as well be something that I really like.
And I actually really drawn to sort of the formula of a romance novel. I like knowing a little bit about where it’s going to go when it starts, that kind of thing. And I was just listening to a lot of audio books and reading a lot of books and thought, yeah, this is the genre that I like, queer romance in particular. And so that’s what I chose to write.
Jeff: Yeah, you could tell that you’re very familiar with the structure and the tropes and the beats, because it’s just right there. It was like every expectation I wanted just kept coming down the line. In your reading and in your writing, are there tropes you like to play with specifically within romance?
Jeris: Yes, there are for sure. It didn’t come through as much in “Hollywood Hopefuls,” but I love the trope of kind of texting, messaging, online communication. Whether the characters know who they’re talking to or not. And that’s something that’s going to show up in “Romantic Hero” is sort of like a correspondence component. I love that one.
I also really like, friends to lovers stories where the people know each other and there’s just kind of discovering what their relationship actually is to the other person.
There’s a lot of tropes that I like, but I guess those would probably be my two kind of favorite ones to work with.
Jeff: And you mentioned queer romance. What brought you to writing queer romance?
Jeris: I don’t know how I stumbled upon it, but I ended up maybe just listening to a book in my library or something that was a queer romance story. And I want to say it was like a bisexual character and a gay character. And, I was just like, oh, this is amazing. Like, this is great, I love reading the story.
And, so I’m a queer person too, a pansexual and I just hadn’t seen much of that representation in romance novels. And I just started to like gobble up all of it that I could find then from that point on. And I think there’s something really appealing about it to me, just because a lot of the male/female romance, and I do read male/female romance to from time to time, but I think it can get really problematic for a lot of women to just, you know, read male/female romance, especially queer women for some reason. I don’t know. It’s just my own experience that, it can be problematic.
So I just ended up feeling like I could identify more in some, some ways with queer romance stories and I liked the idea of having more representation. That’s kind of how I ended up in this particular niche.
Jeff: And you’ve been prolific. Four books in “Hollywood Hopefuls.” First book of “Coleridge Cliffs.” You’ve done some like in-between short stories in through all that.
It’s like you just pushed your on button and suddenly you’re just going. How’s that felt as you just kind of like book after book after book and kind of really hit the ground running this year.
Jeris: It feels good. I feel like I don’t do any other job right now, besides this, I mean, I’m a mom, so I have that going, but this is my only like, you know, sit down at the computer and work on something job.
So there’s been a little bit of time to kind of delve into it, but also it does come pretty naturally to me once I have my book plotted out. It’s just a matter of sitting down and drafting it. It doesn’t take much from that point to get it on the page.
Jeff: It’s been really wonderful just as I went through to prepare for this interview. I’m like, look at all of these books. And it’s such a relatively short amount of time. It’s really great to see that you’ve just been able to find that and use the spark and just really jump into it.
Jeff: Who are some of the authors who inspire the stories that you’re telling right now?
Jeris: Okay, so I’m the biggest ridiculous fan of Alexis Hall. I didn’t start with “Boyfriend Material,” but that’s when everybody knows. I did read it, of course and loved it. But I started at Alexis Hall with the “Arden St. Ives Series.” So it’s “How to Bang a Billionaire” and those books. And I just hadn’t read anything that was that funny, that heartfelt, that intelligent and in a genre novel. And so it was kind of like an inspiration to me that it doesn’t have to be… You know, there there’s so much variety within the genre itself.
So a romance novel doesn’t have to be one specific tone or type. And having those books be so emotional for me, and so funny, and so smart and witty, that was a really big inspiration. So I’m full on obsessed with Alexis Hall. Thankfully he has not blocked me on social media yet. But my friends are usually like, Don’t DM him anything, like tone it down a notch, but, but yeah, I’m pretty obsessed.
And then when I started in the genre, I had read a lot of Lucy Lennox and I kind of feel like I have a n appreciation for the tone of those books as well. Kind of like the level of heat and romance, heart mix. So yeah, those were two kinds of inspirations when I started.
Jeff: So far you’ve been contemporary and you’re going a little bit goth now. Is there something that you’d like to write that you know, is maybe down the path a little bit, that you’re just not quite ready for yet?
Jeris: I actually would really like to write historical. I love historical. “Downton Abbey.” “Bridgerton.” some of my favorite books are Jane Austen. I just, I love that. I don’t know that I’m ready to commit to the research involved for that. But I would like to do that someday.
Jeff: Yeah. I really have a lot of admiration for people who really delve in to their historicals and do all that research. You have to really pay attention to get it right.
Jeff: It’s a lot of extra responsibility that freaks me out a little bit.
Jeris: Me too.
Jeff: What would you say are the trademarks of a Jeris Jean story?
Jeris: I would say at least what I’m aiming for as my trademarks, the dialogue is the biggest thing for me. The dialogue between the characters, that there’s a lot of it for one. And that it sounds good that it’s witty and there’s banter, but there’s also a lot said in the short amount of words that end up being on the page. So I really try to focus on that.
I think that there’s a lot of like pop culture references. That’s something that does carry through in “Hollywood Hopefuls.” It’s a lot of music stuff. In ” Coleridge Cliffs” there’s a lot of literary references. So I like to have kind of this like cultural awareness stuff going on.
I like to also think that they’re pretty character driven. So sometimes I’ll have to remind myself, like there has to be some kind of a plot event that happens here. It can’t just be all internal character development. There’s gotta be something going on with these people. This also goes along with dialogue, but like my steamy scenes, it’s the dirty talk, the steamy dialogue. So it’s another form of dialogue, but those are probably my, my main consistencies.
Jeff: I absolutely loved in “Running Lines” the dialogue that went along with the sex. And those more steamy and seductive moments, because that really deepened out that emotional connection, nothing will check me out of a sex scene faster than it just, you know, being sex.
It needs to have something more and you just pulled that through so well in “Running Lines.” And, the music too, I have to say. Those music references and how they came back later. I was like, ah, that’s so good that it wasn’t just a character thing, but it actually tied everything together in the long run to.
Jeris: I was really bummed because when I initially wrote “Running Lines,” the first draft had, instead of a playlist that Grayson makes for Finn, it was actual song lyrics, you know, with little snippets of lyrics from each of those songs.
And Initially with “Running Lines,” I had considered going with traditional publishing. And so I had a couple of different traditional publishers that wanted the book and they said, you have to cut these lyrics. Like it’s just a nightmare copyright wise to have song lyrics. And so, while I didn’t go that route to publish the books, at least I did take her advice and cut the song lyrics.
But that is kind of like the hardest part for me, going back through the book and not having those specific lyrics, but it is what it is. I know what he was thinking, whether it made it into the book or not.
Jeff: Did you make a Spotify playlist for everybody so they could go listen to what these songs are.
Jeris: You know, I have a Spotify playlist for ” Opening Lines,” the fourth book. I should probably upload the “Running Lines,” but I did have a reader message me and say she went ahead and made one. And that her child in the back of her vehicle always says, I want to hear “Running Lines” and so then they play the music. So that was really cool.
Jeff: That is awesome. You’ve got a kid fan of, at least your music tastes.
Jeff: What’s a book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to our listeners?
Jeris: Can I tell you two have them?
Jeff: Of course!
Jeris: I agonized over this.
Jeff: I love book recs, so go for it.
Jeris: Okay, so the first one it’s called “All The Cuts And Scars We Hide” by Garry Michael, and it’s this contemporary, m/m. One of the main characters is a former military, and so he struggles with like PTSD and he meets this sort of, ray of sunshine surfer guy in the book. And so it’s kind of like that grumpy/sunshine dynamic, but like a little bit more serious. It has just like, emotional depth to it that I really loved. So, that one was really good.
And the other one was a debut novel that I read recently called “About Last Knight,” like K N I G H T. And it was by Michaela Cole and it’s set in a high school. So it’s new adults, but they’re 18 by that, you know, for the book. So it’s, it’s more of like, it’s not like a high school YA, it’s definitely more like a new adult romance, but it was one of those books where I was like, okay, this person is a natural writer. Like, her dialogue was amazing. The scenes were so sweet and steamy and emotional. And so that one was really, really good, too.
Jeff: I’ll definitely check those out.
What can you share about what’s coming next for you?
Jeris: Okay. So “Coleridge Cliffs”, the other thing that’s coming out with that may or may not be like a book two. Well, it’s something in the “Coleridge Cliffs” world, for sure coming out. I would love to say there’s more “Coleridge Cliffs,” but I don’t want to be quoted on that at this point.
I also am working on something that is a collaboration. And I can’t really say anything about it, besides that we’re writing it. And it’s not in either of my universe worlds that I’ve written. So that would be something new altogether.
And everybody who has read book four of “Hollywood Hopefuls” has said, there must be a book five to settle this. It’s not a cliffhanger, but there is definitely unfinished business with some characters that need their own books. So I would like to say that that will eventually come to be as well.
Jeff: Nice. How are you finding co-writing?
Jeris: Co-writing is, it’s a tough business. It only works. If you, you have to have a very thoughtful and deliberate selection of co-author in order for it to work. And so, it’s going really well for me and for us, but I can’t see myself thinking it would be a good thing to do with just any old person.
Jeff: It is important to find the right person that meshes with your process and how you work for sure.
Jeris: Not only like tone and writing style to some degree, but also yeah, the process and the level of communication and honesty and things like that that you have to have. So, but it’s, I think it’s great if it works, if it’s the right mix, I know I personally love a lot of co-written books when there’s a good partnership.
So like I’m a stan of the Eden Finley, Saxon James books. Like you can just tell when they have a good vibe and it meshes and so I’m hoping that that’s what we’ll be able to do something that meshes well and people like.
Jeff: Yeah. I always love hearing co-writers stories because is it the plotter and the pantser who are getting smushed together, or somebody who likes to write first person versus somebody who likes to write third and somebody has to make the the switch up. So yeah, it’s just kind of fun to hear how those partnerships come together.
Jeris: Yeah. It’s definitely fun because my co-author will say, like, okay, we need another steamy scene. You’re writing this one. It’s your turn. You’re better at it than me. Or I’ll be like, okay, you know, something’s got to happen in this plot. Where’s the story actually happening here? And so it’s nice to have enough in common, but sort of maybe different strengths to some extent.
Jeff: Can’t wait to see what that looks like. Along with the other things you’ve got coming out.
What is the best way for everyone to keep up with you online so they can actually get all the news as you are able to talk about things?
Jeris: I do have a website, Jerisjean.com, and that’s where you can sign up for the newsletter. And so I send out a newsletter once a month, usually. Unless there’s something big and exciting going on, but that’s probably a good way other than that I’m on TikTok a lot. That’s where most of my followers are. So, it’s just @JerisJean, if you’re a Tiktok person and Instagram @Jeris.Jean. I have other social media, but I’m mainly on my Tiktok and Instagram.
Jeff: You’re one of the first authors I’ve talked to who actually feels like they can embrace TikTok a little bit. What are you finding, so awesome about TikTok?
Jeris: I’m loving it. Initially it was really terrifying to be on camera all the time, but once I kind of got over that it’s been great. I love it because people are… it’s very interactive to me to compare to other social media. Like you don’t have to join a group to interact with the creator, or you don’t have to already be a follower to comment.
You know what I mean? It’s just kind of like someone can stumble on your video, comment something, and I can interact with them right there. And I don’t know, for whatever reason, I’ve just had a lot more, like growth as far as followers on TikTok than other social media. And so I don’t know if it’s just, I think maybe it’s the personal element.
So I think that’s what freaks most people out about filming TikTok is that it is more personal, but I think that’s also what makes it great. And why people connect with it more because they see you, they hear you. It’s, it’s less kind of staged or you know, I guess I feel like Instagram maybe is my other favorite form of social media and it’s just a little more like polished and like curated.
Whereas like half of my Tiktok’s are in my pajamas, so.
Jeff: Well, we’ll be checking you out on TikTok to see what you do over there. Cause it all sounds kind of fun. And to be able to watch somebody who is embracing the format well. That’s something for me to maybe learn and maybe for some other authors out there and certainly for readers to start following you as well.
Jeris: Yeah and I would give advice if you’re an author trying to use TikTok. As many of my author, friends or colleagues have said, like, okay, I’ll do TikTok, but I’m not going to have my face in the video. I’m just going to have these videos made, you know, text or whatever, and that doesn’t work as well. So like, if you’re gonna bite the bullet and join TikTok, you’re going to have to just put your face in the video and talk to people. That’s what they connect with I think.
Jeff: Go all in.
Jeris: Go all in and I will say, there are haters on TikTok. There’s haters on all social media. And so that can be a bummer and it’s harder because it, it also does feel more personal because they see you and you see them and whatever. But, I haven’t had that be too much of an issue, but I don’t want to encourage all these authors to join TikTok and then be like, people are mean and on TikTok. Some are, but most are not. It’s it’s a really great community.
Jeff: Well, thank you so much for coming to talk to us about “Coleridge Cliffs.” Wish you the best of success with that release and very much looking forward to reading more from you soon.
Jeris: Yay. Thank you so much for having me.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. And don’t forget, the show notes page also has links to everything that we talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And thanks again to Jeris for coming to talk with us. As you heard me say in the interview, I really loved her story about how things just clicked for her suddenly and she began to write. It is so wonderful to see the year that she’s had. Now, since we spoke, she has another book up for the “Coleridge Cliffs” series. It looks like book two is indeed going to come to pass. “Historic Event” is up for pre-order with a publishing date of February 14th, 2022. So right in time for Valentine’s Day. And of course there’s a link to that pre-order in the show notes as well.
Will: All right, I think that’s going to do it for now. Coming up next on Thursday in episode 348. It’s the Big Gay Fiction Book Club for November.
Jeff: Yes. You can take a break from your Thanksgiving celebration and join us as we finally get to talk about “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane,” that wonderful and groundbreaking holiday romance by Roan Parrish.
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.