New York Times best selling author Lauren Blakely talks about The Best Men, which she co-wrote with USA Today best selling author Sarina Bowen. Lauren shares all the details on how she and Sarina came up with the ideas for this enemies-to-lovers romance, and how their writing process worked.
Lauren also discusses how she went from journalism to a romance writing career that spans 100 books. Of course, she also shares some book recommendations too, which leads to details about how she came to co-write with author KD Casey.
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.
- The Bromance Zone by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo
- Episode 351 – Book Recommendation Blowout on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- The Best Men by Sarina Bowen & Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo
- Episode 355 – Book Recommendations to Ring in 2022 on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Super Hot Wingman (The Best Men prequel) by Sarina Bowen and Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo | YouTube
- Lauren Blakely Interview
- Lauren Blakely: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy on Amazon | Kobo
- Roommate by Sarina Bowen on Amazon | Kobo
- Bridget Jones series by Helen Fielding on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Emily Giffin on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Danielle Steel Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Sidney Sheldon Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Jackie Collins Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- A Guy Walks into My Bar by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo
- Kindle Alexander on Amazon
- Lucy Lennox on Amazon
- Rachel Reid on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Men of Summer series by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo
- Rules of Love series by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo
- Only One Bed by Keira Andrews on Amazon
- Kiss and Cry by Keira Andrews on Amazon
- Unwritten Rules by KD Casey on Amazon | Kobo
- Dirty Slide by Lauren Blakely & KD Casey on Amazon | Kobo
- Dirty Steal by Lauren Blakely & KD Casey on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until October 19, 2022)
- Hopelessly Bromantic Duet duology by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until June 15 & 30, 2022)
- Patti LuPone: A Memoir by Patti LuPone on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Anything Goes: New Broadway Cast Recording (featuring Patti LuPone) on Amazon
- Company: 2018 London Cast Recording (featuring Patti LuPone) on Amazon
- Company: 2006 Broadway Revival Recording (featuring Raul Esparza) on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- 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, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Blakely joins us to talk about her brand new book, “The Best Men.”
Jeff: Welcome to episode 357 of 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: Hey there, rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show.
Jeff: I’m so excited for this extended interview we’ve got with Lauren Blakely. Will and I became big fans at the end of last year. Will read “The Bromance Zone,” which he reviewed in episode 351. And then I read “The Best Men,” Lauren’s co-write was Sarina Bowen. And I reviewed that just a couple of weeks back in episode 355.
And I have to tell you before we get to this interview, that I recently read the prequel to “The Best Men,” which Lauren and Sarina dropped at the beginning of this month. “Super Hot Wingman” is a perfect sort of prologue set up to “The Best Men.”
In this short story, we are introduced to Mark and Asher, and we see what led up to the drunk text incident that has to be dealt with at the beginning of “The Best Men.” We get to see when Mark was first introduced to Asher, and how Mark formed his less-than-great opinion of his soon-to-be brother-in-law, and his frustrating but super hot best friend. Just like “The Best Men,” “Super Hot Wingman” is a lot of fun and a great insight into these characters, particularly Mark, and it shows you exactly how Mark and Asher became the enemies that they are. “Super Hot Wingman” is available for free wherever you get ebooks, and there’s even free audio available on YouTube, which is narrated by Teddy Hamilton and Jacob Morgan, the same incredible duo who voice the full book.
Now, let’s get all the details from Lauren about “The Best Men,” a super sexy and fun romance. Lauren shares how she and Sarina decided to co-write, how they came up with Mark and Asher, and all the different things the couple goes through to end up at their HEA. We also talk about how she went from being a journalist to a romance author. Plus, she’s got some great book recommendations, and a preview of what she’s working on for later this year.
Lauren Blakely Interview
Jeff: Lauren, welcome to the podcast. It is so amazing to have you here.
Lauren: Thank you so much, Jeff. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Jeff: I am so excited to get to talk about this book with you because it actually finished my reading for 2021 to get to read “The Best Men,” which you’ve co-written with Sarina Bowen. It comes out this week. Tell everybody what this book is about.
Lauren: So “The Best Man” is about two best men at a wedding who aren’t exactly friends and who might have had a very awkward group drunk text interaction, because one of the guys, Mark, group drunk texted a bunch of people and said a lot of things about the other best man in Asher.
So, it’s a little bit awkward, and that’s kind of what sets the stage for these guys who have to work together to do some planning and prep for a wedding that they are both the best men for, and they do that in sunny, hot Miami, where lots of things get hot, temps and bodies.
Jeff: I have to say that between Mark and Asher, I just, as a way to start the book, starting to play with who these characters are. Reading the blurb, ignoring the fact that it’s very clear who sent the drunk text, you would assume it would be Asher, because of the person that he is. And yet it’s Mark, who’s much more of the button-down banker, wall street guy sending the drunk text.
So immediately you’re already playing with the idea of who these guys are.
Lauren: Exactly, that was, and I will actually say that was Sarina’s idea for how to start the book. It’s like, what if this kind of wall street banker type winds up sending these drunk texts. I’m like, “yes, and he’s mortified.” And that was the key, like we wanted to start the book on Mark’s mortification.
Like here’s this guy who is at this point in his life, where things are starting to change for him because he’s recently divorced from a woman. But he knows that he’s bisexual. And things are just starting to change in his life, but then he does thing that he ordinarily wouldn’t do. And he has to figure out what on earth am I supposed to do to deal with this mess that I made?
Jeff: And it was a mess with the best of intentions cause he was trying to look out for his sister. I felt really bad for him, but at the same time, it’s like, “dude, drunk texting?!” but you’re trying to be a good guy at the same time, sort of.
Lauren: Exactly, and Asher really had a field day when he read those texts from Mark.
Jeff: Oh, he is such… they’re both really good at the banter, but Asher just knows how to make those little dings.
Lauren: Asher, it was really a delight to write. I mean, well, they both were because I do think they’re so different. I think Mark has this great dry sense of humor.
And Asher is so good at sort of poking and prodding in just like the most delicious way that kind of, like a slightly cocky, hot guy can do.
Jeff: And I think that’s what makes them such a brilliant team because once they find their rhythm, because aside from all the romance, they’ve got to figure out how to do and find the time for that. They’ve got to put this wedding together and that’s not an insignificant task, three days on the ground in Miami, before everybody shows up, to make sure it all happens right.
Lauren: And we really wanted to be able to have each of them bring something to the table, if you will, during the different aspects of the wedding planning process. Whether it’s getting the cake, or getting the flowers, or the DJ or whatever it is. Like they each have their expertise.
And they can help each other, even if they don’t really realize at the time that they’re actually helping each other and complimenting each other because it takes them a long time. Well, mostly the whole book, of course, to actually realize that they are these puzzle pieces that fit together, but that there, there different personality traits, wind up being, you know, exactly what the other one actually needs to be complete.
Jeff: Exactly and it’s, I mean, it boils it down to like the basics, but like, I feel like oftentimes Mark is like the bad cop. Cause he’s very much the, I have my to-do list and you, the vendor are going to do these things. It’s what you agreed to. And then Asher kind of slides in as the good cop going, but it’s okay because this is going to happen and everything’s great. We’ll pay you maybe a little more, you know, whatever that is.
Lauren: And Mark likes being the bad cop. And I think sometimes…
Jeff: He does, yes.
Lauren: He does like, that’s part of his personality. Like he’s got that sort of like dry edge to him. Like he’s a little bit of a hard-ass, but I mean, he’s a trader on wall street, so it makes sense. He has to have like this certain tenacity to go through the interactions that he has in life. But of course, I think, and hope over the course of the story he learns when to let go of that side and to, you know, let people in from time to time. And to decide, okay, I don’t have to go to battle on every single thing. And I think that’s some of the journey that we wanted to take him on. It’s like, okay, what do you need to fight for? And what do you need to say? Okay, I will take your help on that.
Jeff: I love how it’s difficult for him at the beginning, especially to be like, ok I’m going to let this go.
Lauren: It’s very hard for him.
Jeff: How did you and Sarina create Mark and Asher?
Lauren: First, I’ll tell you how the story came together. And that I Sarina had the idea for the drunk text. I had the idea for the title. And I said to Sarina, would you, do you want to write a book together called “The Best Men?” This could be a fun little concept. And then like, and the way we created it instantly just kind of typified how we did everything throughout the writing process.
Because as soon as I said that, you know, we got on the phone, I was out walking my dogs, we’re having this conversation about this potential story. And she’s like, yeah. And it could start with the drunk text and it’s like each idea we just build on the other one. And that’s what we did.
So, we had a couple of brainstorming sessions and plotting sessions before we actually wrote the book in the summer of 2021, where we had like our Google docs. And, you know, like the shape of the plot and these character traits and their outlines. And like each time we would talk about the book and build it, you know, we would color in a little bit more of each of these guys, like, what are they like? What are their issues? What are their wounds?
And I think that really helped because we both wrote both men. In terms of what we did each day, in terms of the writing assignments, if you will, like it wasn’t that she wrote Mark and I wrote Asher or anything like that. It was just, what does the story need? What are the next two scenes? You take that one. I take that one. Sometimes we would leapfrog, and I would write the next scene after what she was working on. And then we would fill in the document at the end of the day, we were like, oh, okay, cool. We’ll just stitch these together. That really works.
But I think it was because we were constantly just building on the ideas that we both had to create this universe and to create these characters. And I hope that, that it comes across that way as people read it.
Jeff: I think it very much does because it’s, it’s one cohesive book that you can’t really tell, well somebody must’ve written this versus somebody had to have written that. It’s like one thing written by a single mind. In this case, it was just two minds fused together through the Google docs.
Lauren: You know, we definitely have a bit of a uni-mind thing going on. That was definitely a lot of that. What happened to is if I would write a scene that didn’t quite land, or if she wrote something that was imperfect on the first draft, we would really get in and help the other one and figure out like, okay, wait, this is what needs to be here, you know. Let’s see if we can tackle this a different way. And I think in so doing, we’re like constantly passing the words and the characters back and forth and like really taking care of them. And frankly of each other as co-writers, so that we did have this really unified creation.
If you remember, sort of the first extended joke is early in the book when they’re at the bar at the engagement party for Mark’s sister and Asher’s best friend, that’s a couple that’s getting married, and Mark explains these different levels of hotness to Asher. He’s trying to like kind of tap dance this way out of, you know, the embarrassment he feels over the texts that he sent, where he said, this is in the blurb, that Asher was super hot. And Mark has this extended, you know, like soliloquy on different levels of hotness.
And I remember like I took a first stab at it, and I was like, fix this Sarina. And she was like, okay, okay. And then she would go in and like adjust it. And at the end, I remember saying to her like, oh my God, this is like, I felt like we were in the writer’s room on a TV show, like working a joke together.
That’s totally how it felt, cause I was like, this joke isn’t there yet. Like let’s really make it shine. And we did together and I’m, I’m really proud of that extended bit. But it was something that I don’t think would have come just from me or just from her. Like we really had to fine tune that together. And I think that’s what we did in many places throughout the story. Like you just really get in and it’s not just blending voices, it’s blending ideas. And I think you can make something that I, I hope is even richer than it would have been otherwise.
Jeff: In terms of working together that way. And you mentioned how you might leapfrog scenes just because of like word assignments and everything who’s taking what in the moment, did you get all the way through a first draft and then come back and start picking it apart again? Or were you working like day to day inside your scenes to then figuring out how to stitch together as you kind of moved along?
Lauren: I think we’re both kind of mostly rolling revisers where we like everything that we’ve worked on that day to be in pretty decent shape.
Sometimes there would be like, an idea, like maybe we’ll make this one adjustment about Mark’s ex-wife, and we sort of knew, like, that’s something we can just sort of easily weave through when we get to the end. But in terms of where the, the two heroes were at, in each scene, as we took them through that, I think for both of us to move on to the next one, we had to feel like the prior scenes were done at least from a character point of view.
So, it was really only like little details. Like, there’s this something about this person’s job we have to work on in, you know, when we do our revisions. So yeah, we really made sure like each day or the morning after that, that we were happy with where we were before we would move on to the next thing.
She’s ahead of me by three hours. So, she’s on the East Coast. Like, I would wake up. It’s like, okay, this is, you know, this is what I’m thinking of tackling. These are the things that we need to do. Or I would leave her notes at the end of my night. Okay, this is what I finished. These are the scenes on the list for tomorrow, or we would throw it out and be like, we need new scenes. I think this needs to happen sooner. I think we need to get to the dance club on Tuesday night instead of Wednesday night.
Jeff: There must’ve been quite a timeline document somewhere I would imagine cause you have three days before somebody showed up and then the wedding day. And then you already had this idea that they had to depart the wedding venue. And so much had to happen in those three days to kind of set them up well.
Lauren: Yeah, there was really a lot. We definitely, yeah, there are some, which is partly why we demarcate it. Okay. It’s Tuesday, it’s Wednesday. It’s Thursday. Because I just think that’s helpful when you have these compressed timelines. It’s so fun. I love writing stories that can take place over the course of a week, for instance.
Even though there’s, you know, sort of more after the wedding, but the wedding itself. It’s so important when you’re dealing with a forced proximity trope, which is what we had here to play with. It’s just really making sure, okay, we need to hit all of these different things in this day.
So yeah, we had lists of wedding errands. Okay. Are we going to do this one? What are we going to do one? Throw that one out. Bring this one in. What do we need? Where would be a funny place to like make a dirty joke? Or, oh, how about the CVS errand? Yeah, let’s add this in. This will be great.
Jeff: Oh yeah, the CVS errand.
Lauren: It was fun. It was a blast. I really enjoyed that scene.
Jeff: And I really like what you did with forced proximity here, because it’s a very different take than normal because they’re at this mansion with a guest house. We get really early, like, they’re not staying in the mansion because that’s the wedding party and the families. And so, they’re going to stay in the guest house. But even while they’re alone here, they forced proximity themselves to the guest house.
Lauren: I keep just smushing and smushing them together.
Okay, I have a very Sarina story to tell you. So, before we started writing, I remember she sent me an email with the list of Miami properties. She’s like, okay, these are the different mansions. And I’m like, I love you. This is so cool. She took the properties, and this is what it would cost to rent it for a week. What do you think? I’m like perfect.
Jeff: You planned a wedding basically.
Lauren: We really did.
It was really perfect. She even had the tent. She was like, and this could be the tent that they use. So, it was great working with her on that.
Jeff: I hadn’t even thought about that aspect of research. So much of it you can just make it up and be like…
Lauren: I was really impressed.
Jeff: That’s awesome. So, I really have to know, to the degree that you can tell me, who came up with the spreadsheet being such an integral role?
Lauren: Actually, discussed this with her before I came on the podcast.
You know, I mean, we both feel that I think the same way in general, about a co-writer at the end, even we don’t remember who wrote most of the different scenes, which I think is sort of the hallmark of a good co-write. But I am 100% comfortable saying that the spreadsheet was her idea. She is such a spreadsheet person.
I once actually showed her this spreadsheet I have for my book files. It’s so messy. And she’s like, oh my God, that’s hideous. You know, she was like, like Kramer on Seinfeld. Like, don’t look at me. I’m hideous. Yes, I’m dating myself. She’s very much a spreadsheet person. I was like, you can keep lists on spreadsheets. Okay, cool. Let’s do it.
So yeah, this spreadsheet was, was her idea and it was just such a blast working with that. And, you know, being able to have that framework for the jokes. I mean, that’s something that I really enjoy is sort of looking for great opportunities to, to find like just the right joke in each scene.
It was like, okay, where, what’s it going to be? What’s the punchline? What’s the payoff? Is this like a quick joke? Is it a long con joke? What’s it going to be? And I think the spreadsheet… the spreadsheet is sort of like, it’s not long con joke, but it’s like a joke that can extend throughout the entirety of the story.
So, I was so glad she had an idea because I really, I really love what would it became. It’s sort of like a living, breathing, like, dirty joke inside the book.
Jeff: Absolutely. And it really, I mean, I love a good spreadsheet too. I would’ve never considered a spreadsheet for some of the uses they have for it.
Lauren: I know. I had no idea.
Jeff: But the jokes just landed so well, you know, because I already liked spreadsheets.
You’ve co-written with three other authors previously amongst your hundred something books that you’ve got out in the world. What brought you to co-writing with Sarina.
Lauren: I love Sarina. She is my favorite author, which is something I’ve said publicly in many places. Like I just, I it’s, it’s an id thing.
Like I just really connect with her writing. I’ve read most of her hockey books. I’ve read most of her m/m books. She has it, you know? She just has that magic that really, really speaks to me. “Him” was probably the first book of hers that I read. Everybody knows that, of course. And then I I’ve read many of her m/f titles as well.
I’ve read “Roommate” and just fell in love with that and listened to in audio as well. And I remember a couple years ago, I was at an audio awards event in Los Angeles, and I was with a couple of narrators. And I was with this woman who heads up the Oral Fixation audio group. And we were all getting dressed and doing our hair and makeup.
They all were fans of Sarina too. And I was just like, I’m going to tell them, like my great wish. I was like, you know what, ladies? I think I really want to co-write something with Sarina Bowen someday. And it was like I had said, you know, I’d been sort of like this dream that I had had and I wanted to voice it and like put it out there in the universe, if you will.
They’re like, you should, you should. I kind of sat with it for a while. I think that was like late 2019. And then finally I mentioned it to her, and she was open, and we started talking and then COVID blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Everything is derailed, yada yada, yada. And then we revisited it at the end of last year.
She was my dream co-writer to be quite honest. She really was. And I was just super excited that she wanted to write with me. Like, oh my God!
When she would write each day and she would say, oh, I just dropped a scene in the doc. I was like, ah. I had to stop myself from fan girling, which, of course I did. I like would fan-girl because this is so good. This is so funny. I also edited her hard and she entered in me hard.
Jeff: That’s important as co-writers.
Lauren: It was really just such a treat.
And I’ve said, I learned so much as a writer too, and I’ve written close to a hundred books. And Sarina is a master at tension. She is so good at keeping the tension in the story. And I felt that she really contributed that ability of hers significantly to our co-write with sort of gentle reminders. Not in a teachery type of way towards me, but like, you know, I can sometimes be a little more wanting characters to confess their feelings.
And she’d be like, let’s hold them back another chapter. I’m like, okay, you’re right. You’re right. You’re right. And then that was something that I really took away after a co-write and I think I’ve been able to apply it to more of my solo books that I’ve written since then. So, it was just like a wonderful experience just on a day in and day out level. Wonderful experience because we’re both really proud of the finished product. But I also think, like I learned new skills as a writer too, so I’m very lucky.
Jeff: That’s awesome. When that can happen. Not only to get the story, but to just tweak the craft a little bit too.
Lauren: Yeah. Just keep learning, like, new skills. I mean, we all need that.
Jeff: How did your process mesh with hers, as you kind of came together to like do the work of the plotting and the writing and all of that?
Lauren: I think we’re actually surprisingly similar. We both mostly plot. But we don’t over plot. It’s like, we don’t know that there’s going to be 30 chapters or 30 scenes or anything like that. But we both really try to look at our stories with sort of like a, you know, a three-act story structure, that three-act arc.
I mean, we would look at like, what are the emotional wounds and how do they, you know, how are they going to be solved, and how do they each fulfill each other’s emotional wounds? How did they become complete ultimately in a relationship? So, we sort of knew like the, the, the broad emotional goals. We knew what some of the twists and turns were going to be in the plot, but we both are really open to the story changing.
We’d had a couple different, I don’t want to say twists necessarily, but just different potential directions for what would happen to Mark and Asher after the wedding. But when we were getting there, we were both like, well, that’s not quite going to work. What if we did this instead? And we sort of plotted, you know, one weekend while she was going away during the summer, she was getting ready to get on a plane.
Like I was in bed at 5:30 in the morning, bad habits, like texting her on the phone, which I don’t do anymore. I wait till I get out of bed. Anyway, that’s an aside. But we were talking about, sort of like this new direction that we want us to go for the final arc of the story. And I think that’s what you ultimately want with a co-writer somebody who just sort of recognizes like the living, breathing, organic nature of a story and responds to what is happening on the page.
Like I would later go on and tease her about it in our various writer groups. They’re like, no, no, it’s good. Like, I’m glad that, that you especially are open to like things changing at the last minute. When we were working on the last sequence there, you know, there were things where, like we were messaging each other, like the last two days, we were writing the book.
Like what if this? And I obviously being deliberately cagey because I don’t want to get away the ending, but like, what if this happened instead? And we did this thing and then we’re like, yeah, right. That’s the way to go. So, I think it really meshed because there were directions, but there’s also like a mutual receptivity to ideas and to shifts and to listening to the characters.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s the thing I really liked about the final act of the book, because I had in my head of course, how they were going to resolve after the wedding. And then even before they left the venue, I’m like, oh, what now?
You ratcheted that tension up to where… I mean, I knew at the end they had to be together because it’s a romance. It’s like, oh, how are they going to fix that problem?
Lauren: Good. I’m glad.
Jeff: I like it when I get tense like that in a romance about, you know. I know what’s going to be fine, but how?
Lauren: Exactly. And that’s how I felt when I would read what she wrote each day. I would get that sort of like, giddy, but tense excitement over what was happening in the story.
Jeff: That’s exciting as a writer, too, to be like what’s happening and then get to go from there. It’s like…
Lauren: It really is. I definitely was very much a writing cave. Like we felt like. It felt like we were just in the Mark and Asher world every single day. Like I wasn’t, you know, doing much of anything else. And I wasn’t, writing anything else.
I had actually thought I might be able to write another book at the same time, but there was no way. Like as soon as we started this, I’m like, nope, they are demanding everything. We are giving everything to this story. There’s no way my brain could be any place else, but in this. And I think it was just that tight focus and showing up every single day.
We wrote it in five weeks.
Lauren: Because we were both writing every day. So, we had great word count every day. We’re like, look at our word count. That’s awesome.
Jeff: Does that include the revisions or just the first draft? I mean, aside from like sending it away to editors to come back and work on it.
Lauren: On it. Yeah. That was the first draft. And then I think probably our revisions took us about four or five days, but it wasn’t as intensive. It wasn’t like we were doing it eight hours a day or anything like that.
And the revisions were like, you know, two or three hours each, probably a day over the course of a week. I think. It was really intensive.
Jeff: Intense, and yet it sounds like fun too.
Lauren: It was, it was absolutely.
Jeff: How much would you say Mark and Asher changed over time as you got in and got to know the characters and you know, how they behaved and where their snark was and where their pain points were?
Lauren: I think that, at the beginning, you know, you have this goal and you’re thinking, okay, opposites attract. So, you’re kind of dealing with, you know, just these general and specific character traits at the same time. But you really don’t know until you start writing that scene, like how are they interacting with each other? Like, what are Mark’s soft spots that we don’t know about?
Like what are Asher’s pain points that we don’t know about? So, I think we probably knew like 65% of each of them, maybe. But then as you go, like each scene reveals another level and you’re like, wow, I didn’t know that about Mark. I didn’t know who his friends were. I didn’t really know what his relationship was like, you know, with his co-worker. And, you know, same for Asher.
And then just learning with like, in his case, how does he interact with these different people? And what does that reveal about him? Just even, how does he interact with a flight attendant? Like all of those things just show you another layer of the person. And then of course, how they interact with each other and respond to each other, especially in awkward uncomfortable situations in dressing rooms or planes or clubs, pools, cars. Okay. I’m not going to give anything away.
Jeff: The way I usually ask co-writers about favorite scenes is like, what’s a favorite scene of yours and what’s a favorite scene that Sarina did. But, given that so much of this is really joint efforts here. I’ll let you answer the question, how you want. You can separate it, or you can do one scene that just is a favorite.
Lauren: Oh, wow. Okay. Well Sarina said that I could say that I wrote most of the dance clubs scene because that was an idea that I had that was very clear in my head when we were plotting it. I was like, can there please be a dance club scene?
And I was like, I love night club scenes with like hot guys dance together. Oh my God. Like, yes, those are so awesome. Can I please put it in every book? So, she’s like, you’re doing that scene. She had a very clear idea of how to sort of take the lead on, without giving too much away on the scene when Asher goes into Mark’s room, and he sees him watching a particular show that they watch in the story. So, she kind of took the lead on that.
And it’s just, it’s so sharp and I just, I loved it. I was so excited when I saw it. I’m like, oh my God. Yes. That’s exactly what we’re talking about and imagined. I think she felt a similar way. Like we both contributed to massage those scenes. But yeah, I was, I was really happy. I think we were both really happy with how both of those scenes turned out. So that’s my one little reveal about kind of who took the lead on which one. And that’s all I’m gonna say.
Jeff: Do you think we might get more of Mark and Asher at some point, somehow?
Lauren: I don’t know. We loved writing together. I think we both would love to at some point in the future. But I think we’re also quite similar in that we both like having a certain amount of freedom as we look down like the, you know, the tunnel of the next year and the next few years in each of our respective schedules. When, okay, these are the books that I’m planning. These are the books that she’s planning. Maybe in a few months, maybe in a year, maybe in a couple of years, like, okay, let’s do it again.
Like, I think we’re both totally open to it, but we don’t have anything scheduled and we don’t have anything planned. Yeah, because we’re both trying to just leave ourselves space and each of our own schedules to just kind of like, write.
Like, I like being able to write what I want to write. And when we have that next great idea. I think that’s when we’ll come back together again. Like, wait, I’ll wake up some morning, she’ll wake up somewhere. I’m like, this is what we’re going to do. And maybe it will be in 2022 and maybe it’ll be in 2023. Who knows? I think probably, you know, there’s a good chance, at some point. That’s my sort of vague answer.
Jeff: Let’s talk about your, kind of, beginnings as a writer. What really kind of got you started down the path of becoming the author, who’s now, as we talked about, has almost a hundred books.
Lauren: It’s so strange to think that I do. I guess I have a lot of voices in my head and they’re noisy and they demand to come out.
I just like being busy. I like many writers. I was a journalist for a long time. That was sort of my first career. When I shortly after college, I dabbled in some various writing things and then kind of found my way into business journalism, covering TV and media and marketing, which is why TV…
Anyone who’s read a lot of my books will sort of see these intersecting themes. I have a lot of characters who have TV shows or are TV producers or in entertainment business. So, I think just like that exposure that I had throughout my journalistic career to the entertainment business helped inform some of my stories.
But I did that for, I think. 15, 16, 17 years, and, you know, journalism imploded and started to change. And necessity is the mother of invention. I remember in, I must’ve been 2011 or 2012 a brilliant friend of mine named Theresa who knew that I had wanted to write and said, maybe this is the time for you to finally consider self-publishing.
It’s like, oh my gosh. Should I finally do it? Because I had been pursuing traditional publishing in a different genre. And I thought, okay, maybe she’s right. And I’d had some romance books at the time. They were, it was sort of back when chick-lit was more of a thing. Like that’s kind of what, like, in, in the early two thousands, there was this resurgence, you know, obviously like Bridget Jones and Emily Giffin.
So, I, so I started as, I don’t know if your listeners know this, but I started in an m/f, which is why I’m kind of taking you, taking you back to like my m/f side. And that’s, that’s sort of where I started, like, okay, I’m going to give this a shot. And I did, I rolled the dice and I told myself if my first self-published book hit a particular milestone in terms of sales numbers and revenue, then I would write another one. And that happened. And then the next one did, and I was like, oh, okay. This is, you know, there are lots of exciting possibilities here.
I just kept doing that and kept writing. And while I was writing, that’s when I started occasionally reading m/m and I was like, oh, this is sort of interesting. Like I kind of like this. This is, you know, a different sort of experience for me. Like it hits me on a different sort of visceral level as a reader. So, it always had it in the back of my mind to try writing gay romance.
Jeff: So, you’ve been in it now almost 10 years if I did the quick math right?
Lauren: Yeah, I think so. Because that’s what the spreadsheet says. Yeah. I published my very first title in January 2013. So yeah. Wow. Nine years.
Jeff: Oh my God. Coming right up here. Congratulations.
What eventually drew you into writing romance because you mentioned that what you were shopping to the trad publishers was a different genre.
Lauren: I love romance. I just really do. I, the books that I was always drawn to when I was growing up, I, you know, I was drawn to Danielle Steel to Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins. I ate that up. Like as soon as I found those books, I was like, oh my gosh. They were just, they, they really be spoke to me and resonated with me. And then when chick-lit had its resurgence, there was sort of like, oh my God, this is for me. Like, this is what I’ve been wanting to read all along. Like, I want to be hit in the chest with flutters and swoons. I want to feel that like, when I go to the movies I want, you know, with that kiss. I want that feeling like, like I get in my body as a spectator watching the movie. When you have that first screen kiss. Like I just love that. And that’s, I sort of knew that was ultimately the genre that I most wanted to write. So, it was kind of a perfect fit once I started writing romance.
I’m like, oh yeah, this is me. Like, this is totally what I want to do with all of these voices in my head. The energy that I feel in my body and like in my heart and in my chest when I’m writing, like, I love that I respond to it. And it’s a joy to write that and to sort of experience their characters, like falling in love all over again, a hundred times or so. A love junky. Romance junky.
Jeff: You just get that HEA over and over and over and over again.
Lauren: So good.
Jeff: Well, that’s the thing about “The Best Men” too. You kind of reference, you know, like rom-coms and movies and your history in like covering entertainment. I could completely see “The Best Men” being a Hallmark movie. Tone down a little bit for what Hallmark is. It’s a little hotter than a Hallmark. We’ve seen the movies about the two thrown together, cause they got to plan the wedding and.
Jeff: Maybe a Netflix movie so it can be hotter.
Lauren: Yeah, so we can have a little sexy kiss, some shirtlessness, please.
Jeff: And then you’re still writing some m/f too, right? Are you kind of going back and forth between doing m/f and m/m now?
Lauren: Yeah, I’m definitely doing both. I have a strong readership in m/f because I probably wrote, I think about 80 or 85, m/f titles before I published my first m/m title, which was “A Guy Walks into My Bar” and that came out in August of 2020. And I’m so grateful that so many of my m/f readers and listeners wanted to try it. I really, I wasn’t sure if they would move. So, like it was known, if somebody follow me on social media closely, they would know that I read m/m, cause I would tweet and talk about on Facebook and Twitter about different m/ms that I had read over the years, you know, Kindle Alexander, Lucy Lennox, Sarina, and Rachel Reid, various titles.
Like I would chat them up, cause I, you know, I love these titles and really responded to them. But I just wasn’t sure if that meant enough of them would follow for it to be something that I would be able to keep writing. And I’m very fortunate in that it happened and “A Guy Walks into My Bar” had good reviews and a good reception. And I was like, “Oh, okay. there are enough of you that actually want this for me. So, I’ll write another one. Yay!!!”
Now I have written, I think I’ve published six m/m titles since then. I believe “The Best Men” will be the seventh, I think. full length novels, I think. Yes. Yes. So yeah, I’ve published six, m/m novels and “The Best Men” is my seventh and one m/m novella. And many more to come.
Jeff: I know some authors will write both but split their pen names. What led you to keep Lauren Blakely as the name all the romance is under?
Lauren: You know, my marketing mindset is often that unless you’re writing in an incredibly different genre, that it makes the most sense to keep the same name. Before I did m/m, I dabbled in some very, very sexy m/f and m/f/m romances, and I deliberately put them out still under the Lauren Blakely name. Cause I was like, you know, readers are readers. I mean I am a reader of various genres. I read m/m. I read m/f/m. I read I’m m/f. I do tend to like the high-heat books, but because of that I was like, I’m kind of am comfortable consuming it all as a reader, so I didn’t want to potentially splinter or split the audience.
Cause I knew that there were enough in that Venn diagram, if you will, who are going to cross over. So yeah, just, it sort of made enough sense that like at that point in my career, I don’t want to build a new name and I had enough of a base as Lauren Blakely. And also, I had been writing more gay supporting characters into my books and started hearing that readers were interested in them getting their own stories. And now there really is like a lot of cross pollination, if you will.
Like a lot of times, if I am setting up a hero to eventually get his own gay romance, he will appear in the m/f books, so that those people who read m/f will get to know everything. Grant from my “Men of Summer” series, people met him in the other baseball books. And were like, I can’t wait for Grant’s. They’re reading about Crosby and Nadia. And then they’re reading about, you know, Holden and Reese, like, okay, and now I want Grant and Declan’s story. So, I like that sort of crossover because one, I think it’s what the readers are connecting with, but it’s also hopefully what the real world, you know, to some degree can be like.
Jeff: How interconnected is your universe?
I’m just curious because there are some authors who essentially, you know, even series to series, we’ll put essentially everybody lives in one big happy world. Is that the same for you? Or are there really cause some delineations in there somewhere where we may see people just cross up into other books?
Lauren: No, yeah, I would say it’s sort of one big world now. And there’s definitely a lot of crossover and there’s sort of this running joke. I have this coffee shop called Dr. Insomnia’s Coffee and Tea Emporium, and it appears…
Jeff: What a great name!
Lauren: It goes wherever I want it to go. Sometimes it’s, you know, in the Village in New York. Sometimes it’s in Chelsea. Sometimes it’s in Gramercy Park, upper west side, Brooklyn. Sometimes it’s in San Francisco. Sometimes it’s in Los Angeles. It’s really wherever I want it to be. So, it’s kind of become like this Easter egg amongst my hardcore fans. Like, okay. I saw Dr. Insomnia’s coffee shop here.
I like to just bring different characters from my world into whatever I’m working on. And sometimes I’ll be like, okay, if I’m working on a story and somebody needs an agent, well, I’ve written you know, book agents and TV agents and entertainment lawyers. So, take this person and he or she will appear on the story.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
So, you worked in the previous genre before, is there another genre currently that you would love to go noodle around in, whether it’s a sub-genre of romance or something else completely? Or is it you want to just keep creating happily ever afters? Which of course beautiful place to be as well.
Lauren: I think I would probably stay in romance.
I don’t have a strong pull to write a thriller or to write young adult or anything like that. I really love, love stories. But I, you know, I, I’m definitely interested in different types of love stories. I had dabbled it, like I said, in some m/f/m stories in the past. And that’s, you know, a lot of fun to write, sometimes just from the choreography point of view.
So, sometimes I think it would be fun to play with the number of people falling in love. The number of people involved in a story. But mostly I’m really pretty happy kind of jumping back and forth like, m/f, m/m, m/f, m/m, and for now, hopefully that’s what I can keep doing.
Jeff: What would you say the trademarks of a Lauren Blakely’s story are?
Lauren: Heat, heart, humor, and dogs. Cute dogs. Heat, heart, humor, and a bit with the dog. I think I’m really known for writing good guys. That’s sort of where I started to make my mark is. I know that there are many, many books and many writers who are successful with writing, sort of like a great asshole hero. And that’s not something that I’m very good at.
So, I think it’s, as a writer, you want to know, like, what are, what are your, what are your true talents? And can you lean into that? So, I think I’ve sort of learned like, yeah, I mean, I can maybe write a guy, who’s got a little bit of an edge. You know, I can write a guy who might be cocky. But I think ultimately what I write are these guys who are confident, good guys, you know. Like a little bit of charm, a little bit of an edge, but ultimately yeah, they’re, you know, they’re good guys. And hopefully humor and heat.
And I think, especially in the sexy scenes, I really tried to bring that heart and that emotional connection to it. And really try to ask myself with every sex scene and to make sure that this is not just about the choreography. This is this, what is this scene about? This scene is about intimacy. The scene is about trust. The scene is about forgiveness. You know, this is about exploration. So, it’s not just body parts. So, you know, I think, and I hope that that’s part of what makes the sexy scenes in my books fun and enjoyable to read or listen to.
Jeff: It was certainly something that I noticed with Mark and Asher, and of course, this was a co-written creation of characters, but they are nice guys. They’re very different in how they’re nice. And I really liked that they were both really equals. Sometimes you get, you know, in those cases where you’ve got, you know, in Asher’s case, he’s the former jock and he’s kind of like this professional photographer and he’s got that swagger going for him, that it would immediately put someone who is more of the numbers geek in more of a submissive position and Marks having none of that. There are two equal alphas who both know when to give it up a little bit, depending on the scenario, and I really loved that dynamic.
Lauren: I think it was fun, especially because it’s an enemies to lovers romance that they have that sort of friction. Okay, like how can they scrape against each other? And, you know, bring out the good and the bad and work their way through the good. I’m glad you responded to that because that was definitely something that was important to us. We wanted to create that dynamic and it was a dynamic we didn’t necessarily plot, but that the character sort of demanded.
So, we would go with it. We’re like, “okay, who’s doing what in this scene.” I’m like, “okay, okay.” Because it wasn’t always obvious because it can be sort of a trade-off, which is typified by how they first respond to the car that they rent. Like that scene, I think really typifies their dynamic probably forever and ever.
Jeff: 20 years down the road they are going to come back to the car in Miami.
Lauren: Which is why they work. Just is!
Jeff: What’s a book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to our listeners to pick up.
Lauren: Oh, well, I have to say, I really did love, Only One Bed”, by Keira Andrews, that you recommended. I devoured that after I listened to your review on the show. So, I’m super excited for her for her next book.
One of the books that I have read in the past year that I’m really excited about is “Unwritten Rules” by KD Casey. She is a debut author, and I sort of met her over Twitter because she was writing gay baseball romance as well. She sent me an ARC and I’m like, “Oh my God, this is so good.” It was just, it was so the writing is beautiful and dreamy and sort of poetic and it hurts at times. And the characters are rich and deep and complicated and it’s sexy. And as soon as I finished it, I was like, oh, that was the best debut I’ve read in years. I need to blurb this book and we should write something together as well.
So, I recommended her before I asked her to co-write with me because I’m in love with her books. And I was like, oh my God, we have to write something together. So yeah, I think everyone should check out “Unwritten Rules” by KD Casey. It’s been really, really wonderful. I think most of your listeners know Rachel Reid. Huge, huge, huge fan of Rachel Reid I’m like dying for her next book.
Jeff: You and me both. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen there.
Lauren: Oh, I’ve read all of her books and she’s so good.
Jeff: Yeah, she’s just amazing. I love a good hockey book. She does them so well.
Lauren: She really does.
Jeff: How amazing with a debut author, you pick it up and go, “I want to write with you because this book is awesome.”
Lauren: Yeah. Yeah. She was like, “really?” You really I’m like, “yeah, let’s do a short story. Let’s do a little scene for our newsletters.” That was the goal. We were gonna do, like a 2000-word baseball crossover scene. Like one of her characters, one of my characters. It was just gonna be something we put out in our newsletters and, you know, 20,000 words later, we had an novella that we released called “Dirty Slide” about two rival baseball players and their relationship. We’re going to do another one at “Dirty Steal” that will come out probably in the fall of 2022.
Yes, she was great to co-write with, it was very organic as well. Like we could really sort of trade off. And the great thing about writing a baseball romance with KD Casey, it’s like, I know enough about baseball to be dangerous, and she knows enough about baseball to be incredibly precise.
So, it was like this is still awesome. I don’t have to double check any of my baseball facts. I’d be like, “fix this line.” So, use whatever, whatever you want to call it when they’re like leading off third base or whatever. I’m like, I don’t have to think about it because you will, cause you are the baseball person here.
Jeff: That’s brilliant. You had Sarina to figure out the wedding venue. You had KD to figure out the baseball.
Lauren: Exactly, I’ll just tell pet jokes.
Well, but I will say any time there is in one of my books or co-written book an insult about the Boston Red Sox, that’s all me. One hundred percent. Can’t stand the Boston Red Sox, so that goes into almost every book of mine.
Jeff: Wow, okay. Some deep seeded things going on.
Lauren: Exactly. I’ll be in therapy for that I’m sure.
Jeff: So, you mentioned the KD Casey co-write, that’s going to come out in the fall of ’22. What else can you tell us about what’s coming this year.
Lauren: So, I am currently working on m/m Duets. It’s called the “Hopelessly Bromantic Duet.” Book one is “Hopelessly Bromantic,” and book two is “Here Comes My Man.” And it’s a romance between a writer and an actor.
The writer is a romance writer. It’s just, oh, my God, it was going to be one book, Jeff. And once I got in and started telling, I, I’m like, oh my gosh, this dude has been living rent free in my head for years. You know, I can’t write one book about a romance writer. Okay! So yeah, they’re getting two books and it’s a lot of fun and it’s hard and it’s emotional.
And I feel like I’m just really like intensely living in this world between this American romance writer and this British actor and sort of like this cross-continent romance. They’re roommates to lovers and, you know, then they become enemies. And then they have to be fake boyfriends. And so just to kind of go through a number of tropes and scenarios across the two books. I think and hope a lot of emotional ups and downs. I’m really taking them through like a, what I hope is sort of a, a great emotional arc, where they’re learning a lot about themselves and each other.
Jeff: Duologies are cool. I like it when a romance can go more than one book, because there’s so much story, rather than trying to just jam it into one.
Lauren: Yeah. And that was kind of how I felt about these guys. Like when I really understood what their backstory was and how they first met, I thought, wow, yeah, they’re definitely going to need like an entire book one that gives you, you know, how they met and what that first sort of taste of young love was like. And then, what went amiss, and you know, what potentially brings them back together. And then you know, what turns them into enemies. Then back into love!
Jeff: So, I have to ask before we wrap up, because this is my theater geek coming out. I saw on your bio that you like show tunes. So, I have to know what some of your favorites are?
Lauren: Anything by Patti LuPone. I am such a Patti LuPone family. She’s my favorite. If I could meet any actor, it would probably be her, but I would just be like a blubbering mess if I met her in person and be like, “oh my god, Patti, I love you. I’ve loved you since I was 10. Oh, my God.” I love her. I’ve listened to her memoir in audio. She’s such a diva. And I love that about her. Like in her memoir, she tells the story of how she destroyed the dressing room when she got the news about “Sunset Boulevard” and how Glenn Close was going to like get the role of the, of the lead in “Sunset Boulevard” on Broadway and she like smashed things in her dressing room. I’m like, “Oh my God, this is why you’re Patti LuPone.”
So, I would say like anything that she does, whether it’s her “Anything Goes.” I love her version of “Company” of “Being Alive” in “Company.” But I also, one of my ultimate top, show tunes ever is “Being Alive” from “Company” sung by Raúl Esparza. I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly. Just like just a gorgeous, gorgeous version of that song. So that was so some of show tunes picks.
Jeff: That meets all of my theater geek needs.
Jeff: So how can people keep up with you online to know all the good stuff coming in ’22 and beyond.
Lauren: I am pretty chatty on Twitter. And what is my Twitter handle? I’m pretty sure it’s @LaurenBlakely. Yeah. So, definitely, I talk back to people. I reply on Twitter, so that’s a good place to talk to me. I’m also on Facebook, but, you know, I don’t know if like what my friend’s limit is, but if anybody wants to chat with me, definitely Twitter is a good place.
And of course, LaurenBlakely.com has my newsletter sign up and info on all my books and what’s coming and all that good stuff, and Instagram as well.
Jeff: Fantastic. Well, we’ll link to all of those places in the show notes and all the books that we talked about. Thank you so much for being here and best of luck as “The Best Men” releases that you and Sarina have the most successful release possible.
Lauren: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me on. It was really a treat. I enjoyed your show so much. So, I fan girled a little bit too when I was invited on so, thank you.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. And don’t forget, the show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And thanks again to Lauren for talking to us about “The Best Men.” I really can’t say enough good things about this book. Make sure you pick it up as it comes out this week.
And I’m super looking forward to the “Duet” duology that she mentioned. Romance writer plus actor? Yes, please! Bring it on.
Will: Definitely looking forward to that one.
All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next in episode 358, we began a brand new monthly feature where we’ll be looking back and recapping episodes of the classic sexy supernatural series “Dante’s Cove.”
Jeff: I had such a good time revisiting these episodes and getting to talk about them with you. I’m looking forward to sharing this with everybody.
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.