Jeff & Will celebrate the release of the fifth Heart2Heart charity anthology as they welcome four of this year’s authors, Mia Monroe, Jodi Payne, K. Webster, and Neve Wilder, along with the organizer of the anthology series Leslie Copeland. We talk about this year’s theme of Never Have I Ever, and how the authors worked with the hundreds of reader suggestions for characters and scenarios to create their stories. We also find out what projects Mia, Jodi, K., and Neve are working on next.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Winter Olympics Promotion
- Heart2Heart Volume 5
- Heart2Heart Volume 5 anthology by various authors on Amazon
- Jodi Payne on website | Jodi’s Gents Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Amazon | Kobo
- K. Webster on website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Amazon | Kobo
- Mia Monroe on website | Mia’s Maniacs Facebook Group | Instagram | TikTok | Amazon
- Neve Wilder on website | Wilder’s Wild Ones Facebook Group | Instagram| TikTok | Amazon
- PFLAG Canada website
- The CHEW Project website
- The Pride Center of Edmonton website
- A.M Arthur on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Alice Winters on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Darryl Banner on Amazon | Libro.fm
- E.M. Lindsey on Amazon | Kobo
- Kate Hawthorne on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Louisa Masters on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Riley Hart on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- S.E. Harmon on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Spencer Spears on Amazon
- Tal Bauer on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Lucy Lennox on Amazon
- Say Anything on Amazon Prime Video
- Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness on Netflix
- Queer Eye on Netflix
- Triple Threat by K. Webster on Amazon | Kobo
- Banned Books for Sale on K. Webster’s website
- Rhythm of Love series by Neve Wilder on Amazon
- Extracurricular Activities series by Neve Wilder on Amazon
- Mountain Topped by K.M. Neuhold & Mia Monroe on Amazon
- California Crush series by Mia Monroe on Amazon
- Sons of Cape Cod series by Jodi Payne on Amazon
- BA Tortuga 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.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we celebrate the release of the fifth “Heart2Heart” anthology.
Will: Welcome to episode 361 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will, and with me as always is my cohost and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance readers, it’s great to have you back for another show.
As we begin this week, I need to make a correction and an apology. Last week in my review of E.M. Lindsey’s “Shades of Winter,” I mis-gendered E.M. E.M. uses they/them pronouns, and I did not use those at one point in the review. I wanted to take a moment here to correct that, and to apologize to E.M. for that mistake.
And one more thing, before we get into our interview this week, the Winter Olympics kicked off this past weekend and that means winter sports are everywhere right now. I’ve joined with 11 other authors to spotlight some winter sports romances as part of the very aptly named Winter Olympics Promotion that’s happening all month long. Among the books you’ll find here are the complete “Hockey Allies Bachelor Bid” series written by RJ Scott, V.L. Locey, Susan Scott Shelley, Chantal Mer, and myself. And besides hockey, there are books with figure skaters, curlers, skiers, and snowboarders by authors, including Keira Andrews, Leta Blake, Lane Hayes, Avery Cockburn, Sean Michael, BL Maxwell, and NJ Lysk. There’s a dozen books waiting for you, and many of them are on sale for the month. You can browse the list at biggayfictionpodcast.com/olympics, or find the link in the show notes for this episode.
Now last week, the latest edition of the “Heart2Heart” anthology released. This year’s theme is Never Have I Ever, And I’ve got to tell you that from what I’ve read so far, the authors in this year’s anthology, of course, have done a terrific job with these stories. I had a terrific time talking with four of the authors from this year’s edition, Mia Monroe, Jodi Payne, K. Webster, and Neve Wilder, as well as Leslie Copeland, who is the mastermind behind the anthology series. We talk about the stories that these authors wrote, and what it was like for them to create their stories using the massive number of reader suggestions that came in for this year. Of course, we also have to play a little never have I ever as well, using the subjects of each of their stories.
Heart2Heart Volume 5 with Leslie Copeland, Mia Monroe, Jodi Payne, K. Webster and Neve Wilder
Jeff: I am so excited to welcome authors from this year’s “Heart2Heart” anthology, along with its creator and organizer. To kick us off, I actually want to have our group introduce themselves and Leslie, I’ll start off with you. Tell us a little bit about what you do with the anthology first off.
Leslie: So, hi, it’s nice to be back. Yeah, I herd cats. I wrangle everybody in one direction. “Heart2Heart” is just kinda my baby. And I come up with brilliant ideas and I ask authors and say, “Hey, do you want to come hang out with us?” And they say yes, hopefully. And we just kind of go for it.
Jeff: And herding cats is definitely something that you do. Having been involved in “Heart2Heart” before I am very, just like, wow, you do amazing work there to get all of this to happen in a relatively short time.
Leslie: Yup! This time we’ve planned a little bit of extra time in our overall timeline, but yeah, you know what? It, it gets a little bit easier every year we it We’re pretty well-oiled machine.
Jeff: And now I’ll have each of the authors just briefly introduce themselves. As you introduce yourself, just as a nice little question, I would love to know like what your favorite tropes are to work with, because I know that’s always something exciting to find out from authors. And Jodi, we’ll start off with you.
Jodi: Okay. Hi, I am Jodi Payne. I write mostly contemporary male romance, male/male romance. My favorite tropes are opposites attract, because I love that idea of people being unexpectedly perfect for each other. And second chances because I really love the idea that a near miss or, you know, something that could have been suddenly now has a chance to be. So, I think those, and I write a lot of those in different sub genres. I’d say those are my favorites.
Jeff: Fantastic. And K, over to you.
K.: I’m K Webster and I write a mix of male/male, and male/female, and just basically everything in between, but I absolutely love male/male romance. It’s my favorite to read and write. And if that’s all I could do, I would do that, but you know, I still have other people that want things from me. But that is definitely my favorite. As far as the tropes, I love enemies to lovers. And I love like hurt comfort. I like when there’s, you know, they’re healing through each other. Those are my favorites.
Jeff: Nice. Mia.
Mia: Well, hi everyone. I’m Mia Monroe. I write mostly contemporary. I’m dabbling a little bit in paranormal, but I haven’t released anything there yet. I’m just sort of obsessed with it at the moment. My favorite trope hands down is friends to lovers. I just love that moment when all of a sudden it clicks that the person that has been so close to you platonically could be your soulmate.
My second favorite one is any kind of sexual awakening, bisexual, gay, whatever. Just, I think it’s amazing that you could meet someone that challenges what you’ve always thought about yourself. So those are hands down my two favorite tropes to write.
Jeff: And Neve, over to you.
Neve: I’m Neve Wilder and I write m/m romance, a lot of new adults and a little bit of contemporary, and then a little bit of romantic suspense. I kinda, I don’t know. I have a hard time pinning myself down and as far as tropes go, definitely like bi awakening is kind of my bread and butter. I seem to always get drawn into that. I’m trying to branch out. It’s hard.
And I also really like opposites attract too. It seems like there’s always some sort of element of that in my, books, because like Jodi said, it’s really, good stuff to mine.
Jeff: Excellent. Well, it’s so fantastic to have all of you here.
Leslie, I’m going to come and talk to you for just a minute before we get into some of these stories. For those who don’t know the “Heart2Heart” history, and this is the fifth year of it, how did it get started and how much money has this amazing anthology series collected so far?
Leslie: Yeah, so as you said, we’re going into volume five now. Volume one was first released in 2018 and it started just kind of, as you know, it was a fun little conversation between myself and a couple other authors, and we said, “Hey, what if?” And, you know, the, the two authors I was talking with at time said, yeah, that’s a great idea. And then we asked another person, and they went, yeah, that’s a great idea. And it all just kind of snowballed. And we, you know, started picked our favorite friends to come join us, and we wrote a book.
We, we certainly never intended it to be something that would be five volumes and counting. Based on the number of ideas I’ve got banked away, and it’s been successful beyond our imagination. Anthologies are one of those things that for me as a reader, they’re kind of hit or miss. You know, you’re going to get those great ones and those not as, you know, ones that you don’t like quite as much.
But “Heart2Heart,” just from the very beginning, readers loved it. You know, they they’ve got their favorite stories, the ones that they’re constantly looking for. And because of all that support from the readers and from the authors participating, over the course of our first four volumes, we’ve actually raised just over a hundred thousand dollars. That’s been donated to LGBTQ charities around the world. And I cannot wait to see what this volume can bring our total up to.
Jeff: Who are charities this year?
Leslie: So, this time around, we are donating to PFLAG, the Canadian branch of that. We are donating to a youth project known as The CHEW Project and The Pride Center of Edmonton. We’ve got a little bit of parental support, a little bit of support for people that are on the street trying to get them off the street, general health and wellness, and youth services to engage and educate and just really be there for the next generation.
Jeff: That’s a wonderful mix. This year’s theme is “never have I ever,” how did you come up with that? Where did that come from?
Leslie: So, with this one here, a lot of times what happens is an idea will come, and then I go out and invite authors. With this time around. It actually kind of happened the other way. Because we limit the number of author spaces in the anthology, there’s always more authors that want to participate that can do it, or that we have space for. So, with this one, I specifically went out and looked for authors, that would be a great mix for the anthology who had never participated before. I wanted that to kind of be our thing, all new authors. And then in talking about different themes that we could do, we tossed around a few different ideas and authors who had never written before for, for the anthology. Hmm. Maybe people who have never done things before. And so, it all just kind of spun together, and we were like, “you know, what? Never have I ever, that totally works.” So, yeah, it was actually, it was the authors that kind of created this theme, whether they knew it or not.
Jeff: The creation is such a big part of it too, because for those who don’t know, it’s, reader polls that help decide the topics and the characters and make it what the characters do and things like that.
Leslie: Yeah, this year we had for our reader survey, you’re right. We asked for character name ideas, a quirk about that character, and then in this case, we were asking for something that they had never done before. And we actually, we closed off the suggestion form at 999 responses.
Leslie: It was, and I’m sure the authors will agree, it was very overwhelming to look at this sheet of ideas and, mine those couple bits of gold to inspire a story. Because we could write forever and still not run out of reader suggestions
Jeff: For the authors, what was it like to be like, here’s a list, go find, you know, the thing that you want to write about somewhere in this 991 things that you’ve got?
K.: I thought it was fun. I thought it was I liked those challenging kind of things and it was like, “Ooh, you know, what kind of variety can I grab and make a story out of?”
The readers had great suggestions and things that maybe I wouldn’t have thought of. And I thought it was fun perusing the list.
Jodi: Yeah, that was definitely fun.
Mia: It was organized too. Wasn’t it? I mean, it was organized pretty well. It wasn’t just a dump of information, cause that would have been challenging, but it was organized very well.
Leslie: You guys could of cried to see the initial of what it actually looked like.
Jodi: I cannot even imagine.
Mia: I’ve seen a Google form before. It’s not fun. But yeah, it was organized really, really well. So, hats off for that, cause it was easier than it seemed like it was going to be to go through and kind of read through the different choices.
Jeff: Hopefully all of you got what you wanted the first time as you are reading through the list.
Jodi: I don’t think it would have been that hard with 900 suggestions. It was kind of, you know. And then if you had one little quirk you wanted to look at, you know, there were four or five variations on a theme. So, if you didn’t find exactly the right thing, cause somebody already had that thing, there might be something else that was similar. I didn’t have any trouble finding something that I wanted. And I can’t imagine anybody had trouble overlapping with anyone. There was so much stuff.
I found it pretty overwhelming at first, actually.
Neve: Yeah, it was definitely overwhelming. And then try and figure out like how you want it to match different ideas up. I had like a three-tiered process of like narrowing it down, and so I finally got to that one idea as like, “okay this is it, this is what I am doing.” It took a little bit. It took a little bit.
Jeff: Now besides the four authors we have here with us, Leslie, there’s a total of 14. Who else are readers going to find in this year’s volume?
Leslie: Other new authors to the anthology, we have A.M Arthur, Alice Winters, Darryl Banner. E.M. Lindsey, Kate Hawthorne, Louisa Masters, Riley Hart, S.E. Harmon, Spencer Spears, and Tal Bauer and returning again is actually Lucy Lennox. I might have roped her into one more round. She has written the intro and outro story that split at the beginning and the end of the anthology.
Jeff: That’s fantastic. Did any of the stories surprise you with the track that they took since you were able to read all of them and see them as you were assembling?
Leslie: Yes and no. There, there’s definitely some different stories. Tal Bauer put his own spin on things in a very Tal Bauer kind of way. So, it’s, it fits the anthology, but it’s also very different for us as well. So that was a really neat addition. You know, certain authors, Daryl Banner pulled on his theater background and really put that into his story.
At least one of the stories I hope I haven’t forgotten one. The story itself doesn’t feature it, but at least one of the characters in that relationship that’s shown is actually a polyamorous. And so, you got to learn a little bit about that character and what they’ve got going on and how they’re thinking and what might happen in the future.
It’s really cool, it’s always a really neat thing to see how everybody takes it. So, nothing like huge and surprising, but it’s not the same old, same old either. So, it’s good. It’s real. It’s good. I’m excited for it.
Jeff: One of the things I always like about anthologies like this is, you’ve got such a tight word count and you really can’t go over it because you’re trying to, you know, make a book that not going to be too much to produce, especially when you put it into a paperback. Did you have any trouble like keeping to the word count of being, I got to hurry up and finish this cause I’m about to tip over the word count or anything like that?
Jodi: I did it first. Yeah. I started a story, and which turned out to be the same characters and the same idea, but I wrote the first two chapters, and I went, “oh, wait a minute.” Because I realized I had started this story that it started, you know, with this focus and had gone kind of like this. And I went, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. So, I reeled it in, and I took a piece of that. And then I just tried to focus you know, there was obviously never have I ever is the purpose of the story. So, I just tried to keep my sights on the never have I ever piece.
And the other things that could have, and may one day expand into a bigger story, I just tried to keep just to the main, but yeah, at first, I started writing a much bigger story than I had intended.
Mia: I think short stories are hard in the sense that you know, my books are always high heat as I am sure other people on here can relate to. And so, you have to come up with a scenario that makes sense for these two people to be in that type of situation right away, because you don’t have that much space to drag out a long lengthy courtship.
And so, I think for me, whenever it’s a short story situation, I always start with what is the dynamic between these two and what elements cause them to get them, you know, point A to point Z pretty quickly. And that, that’s why I think it’s fun. It’s challenging in that way, because when you’re writing a full book, you’ve got time to develop that, but a shorter story, you have to develop that and still make it feel authentic and right for the characters.
So, I don’t think it’s hard for me to stick to the count once I know what I’m doing, but I always have to spend a little more time on that part in the beginning, because I know it’s going to be a short story.
Neve: Yeah, I’m similar. I think the tight word counts used to be more difficult than they are now, which is really, it’s kind of nice to feel like I’ve, I don’t know, gain some ability in that regard. But I used to like, just be so hard to not sprawl all over the place. But I think part of it too, is like Mia said, figuring out the dynamic between the characters and how you’re gonna show that within 10,000 words. And it’s sometimes it’s about picking what you’re not going to show and making sure what you are showing are going to be the impactful moments. And sometimes you have to rework a story.
I originally had a higher heat idea for mine, probably unsurprisingly. And it wasn’t, wasn’t going to work in ten thousand words. I was going to need more book to not have people be like, what is it going on here? So, I kind of reconfigured the characters and I ended up really liking my story. I think it worked for them. But yeah, it’s, it is fun. Okay, sometimes it’s not fun, but it is a challenge, that when you look back on it, you’re like, okay, that was pretty good, that was fun.
Mia: That’s a good way to put it, Neve.
Jeff: So, let’s dig into the stories, and as we do this, we’re going to play a little, never have I ever as well since I’ve got four themes here from these stories. We can find out from everybody if it’s something they’ve done. The first story we’ll talk about is “Never Have I Ever Sung in Public,” which is Jodi Payne’s story.
So, who among you has never sung in public before?
Neve: I don’t think I’ve ever. Maybe when I was a kid? Maybe? Okay. So maybe I, maybe I have, okay. I have, I give up. I’ve done that.
Leslie: I definitely have. School plays and choirs and stuff.
Mia: Yup! Choir, church, weddings.
Jodi: I have. I never wanted to.
Jeff: I got stuck with it at a talent show once in school. Like one of those forced things in like elementary school where you’ve got to do something. Figured out, I didn’t have a voice still don’t have a voice. So never again, but yeah, it has happened not one time.
So, Jodi, tell us a little bit about Nathaniel and Ethan’s story.
Jodi: Well, it’s a second chances story. So, Nathaniel and Ethan had known each other when they were quite a bit younger through a sort of a drama, theater situation back then. Nathaniel grows up and goes one direction. He becomes a sort of a geeky dentist who talks to his plants and has a very quiet life. And Ethan becomes a high school drama teacher and has a group of kids that he teaches kind of, you know, year after year.
I guess the easy way to talk about their story is that they meet up. Nat answers and never have I ever with, I’ve never sung in public, and now that I’m a dentist, I probably will never have the opportunity to do that. Yay! Cause he doesn’t want to anyway. And then Ethan, who remembers him says “don’t I know you? Didn’t, you used to, you know, I think maybe I knew you from this past life and I think you did kind of hang out with us and didn’t, I know you from, you know…”
And he now tries to get out of it because there’s some history there, which I won’t give away. And what ends up happening is Ethan’s very persistent. And finds him outside of the Heart2Heart chat app. And you know, looks him up and contacts him and ends up finding a creative way to get him involved and spend more time with him and get him on stage. That’s kind of how their story goes. And the way that he does that is by roping him in to help with a talent show that his drama kids are putting on.
Jeff: I really loved some of the moments that they had early on. Kind of nudging the, maybe coming back onstage. Relying on a little bit of “West Side Story” in there too. I was just like, oh, that is so cute.
Jodi: Yeah. It’s funny. Cause I know that Neve and Mia were talking about how they’re high heat ideas. And this one actually had a higher heat idea too, and it ended up being in the end much sweeter than I had expected it to be. And I love actually how sweet it came out. And I’m, I’m very happy with that, but it’s funny that it’s, when you bring it down to something smaller, sometimes those high heat moments don’t happen, and they don’t necessarily need to either.
Jeff: How much of the key component here between, what their professions are and how some of this turned out came out of all the details that you got from the sheet versus how much extra stuff you got to blend into it?
Jodi: My approach to that giant spreadsheet was, I tried to find one thing that I was going to start with and then I kind of saw what grew from there. So, I found the theater drama teacher first and I was like, “okay, I think that’s where I want to start with this.” And as I said, I love opposites attract. So, I was looking for something that had nothing to do with theater that, you know, a character that was not involved in anything creative, you know, that was kind of a, more of a left-brain kind of guy.
And this dentist that talks to his plants was just like, I don’t know, it was just a, it just spoke to me somehow. I was like this is too adorable, and I need to put this person in the story. So, I played with that opposites attract idea there. And so, a lot of that, most of it that came directly from that spreadsheet.
Leslie: And some of the reader prompts really are that specific. They literally say, “a dentist who talks to his plants, but only on Tuesdays, wearing green socks.” Like that would not be unheard of to find that on the spreadsheet.
Jeff: Without giving spoilers to what is obviously a short story, can you share something that was like your favorite bit to write or a favorite scene that you’ve got in there?
Jodi: Sure. In a past life, I was a lighting designer and a stage manager in New York. So, I have this theater background that I try to bring in a lot of things that I do now that I’m no longer doing that.
And so, there was this one scene with this drama teacher, having the talent show, there was a girl in his class who was not a performer. She doesn’t sing, she doesn’t dance. And so, she was looking for a way to get involved in this talent show without having to make up something and, you know, sing when she didn’t want to sing or whatever. And she came up with something creative. And that thing that she comes up with was actually something that I had done in college for a lighting design masterclass. And so, I got to pull that assignment into the story and onto the stage and, and the way that she, she uses light and sound and stationary objects to tell a story. And it, it actually wrote up better than I had expected to.
I thought it was gonna be very hard to write, but it turned out to be more fun than I thought and easier than I thought. And it was fun pulling on that experience too, and that history of mine.
Jeff: That’s amazing. I love knowing that that actually came out of your history because as I’m reading that bit, it’s like, that’s really cool. I would like to see this thing.
So next up is “Never Have I Ever Gotten Lost” by K. Webster. So, I have to imagine that we’ve all gotten lost, unlike the people who are participating in this story. Has anybody ever not gotten lost?
K.: I get lost a lot.
Leslie: We, we got lost once and the only way we kind of found a way back was by following the light pollution. Cause it was late at night and we were in the middle of nowhere. So, we’re like, oh, it’s a little bit lighter over there. Let’s just kind of aim that way. Yeah, I’ve been lost.
Jodi: Yeah, definitely been lost.
Jeff: I think our biggest lost experience was we drove up to Montreal and we arrived in Montreal at night. And this was before GPS. So, like, we’ve got our MapQuest instructions printed out. Which is all well and good, but then for whatever reason in this part of downtown, there weren’t a lot of street signs that we just kept seemed to go around in circles, trying to figure out where we were.
Leslie: And all the signs that are there are in French.
Jeff: Well, the directions in the MapQuest were in French too, so we could at least match those up when there were street signs to go off of.
So, K. tell us a little bit about Hunter and Andrew.
K.: Okay, so whenever we got the spreadsheet, I found this one, “Never Have I Ever Gotten Completely Lost” and I thought, gosh, that’s gonna, I mean, pretty much everybody has gotten lost. So, it’s going to take a certain type of person who has never gotten lost. like a control freak, or like just someone who’s very precise or doesn’t get out much or whatever. And so, I kind of started scouring the list for people that stuck out. And there was a statistician. The person had written Asperger’s, but I took it and put them on cause that’s not really something that they classify anymore, so I just put them on the spectrum.
And anyway, that would be Andrew and he’s about 18 or 19. He just lost his mom and he’s all alone. So, he decides to go travel and he ends up in Norway. And so he, that cause that’s where his parents had met each other. And so he’s kind of like on an adventure, he promised his mom. But he’s really not gotten out into the world very much cause people, find him annoying cause he talks too much. And he has his little quirks and people just don’t really like him that much.
Anyway, so Hunter lives in Oslo in Norway, and he is from America, but he is very just dry seemingly emotionless. He has a hard time making friends and relationships. They kind of die out because they feel like he’s just not invested in them.
And so, he stumbles across this, “Never Have I Ever Gotten Lost” and he just finds it completely, just ridiculous. Like he can’t even fathom that someone, you know that all these people were… Basically, it turned into a thread of everybody’s worst stories of how they got lost. And he’s just like mortified. Like how, how are these people getting lost so much?
And so, he comes across, Andrew and they both have never gotten lost. They’re the only people on the list who haven’t ever gotten lost. So, they decide that they’re going to meetup and try to get lost. But their personalities don’t allow this.
And so, they decided to turn off the GPS and then Andrew, he’s funny and talkative. So, he’s like, “Turn there. Turn there. Turn there. And so, they’re just driving and talking and not paying attention. And then a storm comes, and they actually do get lost. They get run off the road and they have to walk, and they come across a very whimsical little bed and breakfast and, there was a candy shop and anyway, it’s, it’s really cute and magical and they have a really nice time.
Jodi: Sounds adorable.
K.: It’s pretty cute.
Jeff: First of all, Hunter’s mortification at these people who have gotten lost. I found his whole diatribe around that absolutely hysterical. Which maybe wasn’t the intent, but just how upset he was about that really spoke to me. But I thought that the sweetest thing in the story, was Andrew’s mom’s mantra of “travel the world, fall in love, and live life to the fullest.” It was just like, I should put that on a plaque on the wall somewhere.
K.: And she wanted him to go out there and… It was sad because his mom basically was his fighter. She looked after him, and now she’s gone. And so, he is lost in life. And when he finds Hunter, he’s got another person that cares about him.
Jeff: And it showed that sometimes getting lost can be fun.
K.: They did, they had fun.
Jeff: So how much for you came from the spreadsheet and how much was you augmenting in the spreadsheet? You mentioned you changed Asperger’s essentially to just being on the spectrum. How else did this kind of mix together for you?
K.: That was the only thing that I changed and that’s just, cause I was trying to be pretty accurate as far as the terminology that’s used nowadays and stuff. But everything else I incorporated into the story.
And a fun fact is I had just been watching a show on Netflix or something and they were in Norway, and I just fell in love with it. I was like, “I want to write a story one day there.” And I looked up that spreadsheet and I saw Oslo. I was like, oh gosh, it’s meant to be. So, I was so excited.
Jeff: Fate steps in, gives you the little extra bit. So, for you again, without giving the spoilers, what’s a favorite scene or moment in your story?
K.: I liked all the parts where basically Andrew goes into his little chocolate, you know, he talks about all the little candies and everything. And he just goes on and on and on and on, and Hunter just listens. And I just think that’s just so sweet that, Hunter wants to hear everything that Andrew has to say.
And every time they get onto these little rants where Andrew thinks he’s being annoying and he’s talking too much, he learns that Hunter just is just drinking it up. And I just think those are just those little moments like that were really sweet.
Jeff: Yeah, the talk in that book is so good. I have an affinity these days for guys who get together and talk well. But they talk and they share and they, don’t just run off because they’re not communicating. So yeah, I absolutely love that.
Next up, “Never Have I Fever Flown in an Airplane” from Neve Wilder. So, who’s never flown on an airplane?
Nobody this time.
Jodi: Not my favorite thing to do.
Neve: I hate it.
Mia: Yeah, I hate it, but I do it.
Jeff: The whole flying process is just terrible.
So, tell us about Beau and Jack.
Neve: Beau and Jack. Okay. So, I went down the list and I kind of bypass the never have I ever flown before first, and then I kept kind of coming back to it in my head. Just because I think because I hate flying so, so much. I was like, well, this one I can draw on this from my own experience and give this kind of guy who’s, he’s not sheltered, in that he’s naive. He’s just sort of has never left his home territory. So that would be Beau. He’s a musician in Nashville and he’s taking his, somewhat reluctantly, taking his first flight to Venice for a friend’s wedding.
So, I figured, if we’re going to do a flight, why don’t, you know, go big or go home. Don’t, don’t fly to Peoria, Illinois. Let’s make them go on a really long ass flight and it’s just going to be quite the challenge. And so, the closer of course he gets to this actually happening, the more nervous he gets and which is when he, about the time he meets Jack. Who’s a flight attendant.
So again, you’ve got that kind of opposites. He’s an old hand at all of this, but so I don’t know. I don’t want to like say too much, but Jack helps him, and he distracts him in a variety of ways and, and yeah. And, you know, he ends up having a really nice first flight to Venice.
Jeff: I mean, you’ve got “Say Anything” references in here and you know, you couldn’t manage to throw in a reference to “Say Anything” I’m so there for it!
Neve: Yes. That was really fun. I actually went back and ended up re-watching the whole movie, but re-watching some of the scenes a couple of times. And I honestly, I can’t remember. I think that actually came from my own life because I remember watching that movie. And so, when I used to fly more, back before kids and pandemics. I would always be looking at that sign. Like waiting for the “ding!” to go off where I could like stop like unclenching every part of my body and just relax. So, I thought it was kind of fun to bring that in there
Jeff: And I thought too, you had such interesting use of forced proximity, essentially because the bulk of the story, is on the plane.
Neve: Yeah, I did, honestly. I didn’t even think, you’re right. It is total forced proximity. You know, I gave them a nice plane, so there’s some places for them to go at least. They’re not, they’re not on one of those.
Mia: A little economy, domestic flight.
Neve: Yeah, that would be, that would be a really challenging story to write. A better writer than I would have to do that. Like, that would be hard, no leg room, you know.
Jeff: Well, you’ve set the standard, if I ever go to Europe, I want to be on that kind of plane.
Neve: Me too! I’m like, does it exist? I don’t know. I think it does. I had one of my beta readers just kind of double-checks some of my stuff.
Jeff: In terms of what you took off the spreadsheet and then other inspiration points that you mixed in, how did all that balance, in your story?
Neve: Let’s see, I think I took Beau’s name and his being a musician and then the flight attendant and I think I made up Jack’s name and then there was the never have I ever flown before and then I just kind of added the overseas part for some an extra juice, juiciness.
Jeff: Nothing like trying to do that first flight, when you’re scared of planes, going overseas.
Neve: Yeah, that’s awful.
Mia: On a plane.
Neve: That’s a horrible thing to do to somebody, like for real. So that’s why it’s a great thing to do in fiction. Make them do it.
Jeff: All right. And then we’ve got Mia’s a story. “Never Have I Ever Had a Makeover.”
Jeff: So, let’s find out who’s never had a makeover. I’ve never had a makeover.
Leslie: I have never.
Neve: I have. I think I have actually, yeah.
Mia: Really? It sounds fun, but I’ve never done it.
Jeff: I love the makeover that you’ve written into this story. Tell us all about Constantine and Deacon.
Mia: So, I guess it’s an opposites attract now that Jodi’s sort of pointed that out to me because Constantine is a historian and a professor. So, he’s in a quiet and reserved profession and Deacon is a makeup artist and lingerie designer. So, he’s very outgoing. He’s very loud. He’s very vibrant.
And they meet because Constantine went through a breakup that sort of left his self esteem, kind of on the floor and his friend convinces him why not just try this make-over it might help you feel good about yourself again and get back out in the dating world. And then the first person he meets is Deacon, who thinks Constantine is perfect the way he is.
Jeff: Thinks that, but yet helps Constantine, I feel like embrace so much more of himself. The message here about clothes and makeup and how they can make you feel and express yourself. I just thought it was kind of magical the way that it played out.
Mia: Thank you, and that’s how I feel about makeup and clothes and all of that. I think that you know, you are what you are, right? But some of these things can enhance some of the qualities about you that are maybe your finer qualities and make you feel better about yourself when you look in the mirror and that’s what Deacon’s mission was that day, as well as trying to get a date with Constantine. He was very determined to get that date.
Jeff: Yes, he was. But very cutely so too. He was such a ray of sunshine. It’s kind of a sunshine, grumpy story too, I thought.
Mia: It is a little bit. Yeah, Constantine seems more like Eeyore more than grumpy, but he’s, he’s definitely down mood and, and Deacon very up mood.
Jeff: Yeah, Deacon even call him out of the Eeyore thing, which I thought was cute.
Mia: He did, yeah. I actually adored writing Deacon. He just came to me very vibrantly like that. I sort of had a Jonathan Van Ness in my mind from “Queer Eye.” He’s not going to let you feel bad about yourself. It’s just not going to happen on his watch. And so, I think I channeled a little bit of JVN for Deacon’s personality.
Jeff: What were some of the other inspirations like that, that you brought into the story that didn’t necessarily come from the spreadsheet?
Mia: I think that I played with on the spreadsheet, Constantine was a historian and I made him a professor/historian because I wanted him to be in an environment where he would be seen by a lot of people and have sort of a public persona if you will. Which would go a long way in a makeover situation. So, I, I played a little bit with his profession.
I believe that everything else I got from that though, because Deacon, his quality was being feminine. So, I definitely took that straight from the spreadsheet. And other than that, I think I just uh, well I think the lingerie thing, and I’ll just kind of leave it at that. The lingerie thing was sort of inspiration as I was writing.
Jeff: Yeah. We won’t spoil where that plays in, but it was a very cool element to the story. I thought.
Mia: Thank you.
Jeff: And without giving the spoilers, what’s one of your favorite scenes or moments.
Mia: It’s the moment where Deacon for all of his bravado and confidence, there’s still a little bit of hurt under that because people don’t always receive people like him very well in society, unfortunately. And there’s this moment where the two of them realize that the things they’ve always sort of longed for are standing right in front of them.
And it’s not this big epiphany or this big, long drawn-out conversation. It’s just sort of this light bulb moment of, “Hey, it’s right here.” And so, I like those moments where I think Jodi was talking about you don’t always have to have this high heat thing. There is high heat in there, but I like that soft moment right before the high heat, where they realize that this could be something.
Jeff: Absolutely. As we’re recording, these are the only four stories that I’ve read. And if this is any indication of the rest of the anthology. Oh my God. I mean, “Heart2Heart” always brings it, but so far, the batch I’ve read this year are just incredible.
Leslie, how long do people have to grab this anthology before it goes away?
Leslie: So just like every other year that we’ve done “Heart2Heart” this is a limited edition. We go live on January 31st, and everybody has just 90 days to borrow it through KU, to buy it on Amazon or to pick up the paperback. And after that it is gone. I know of at least one story where the author has plans to spin it into something bigger.
So hopefully we’ll be able to see, you know, these stories come to life again sometime in the future, but as “Heart2Heart”, it’s only available for 90 days, starting January 31st.
Jeff: And for those of you joining us here, are there plans to either just republish the story or perhaps to grow it to something bigger? A couple of you talked about how you had longer things maybe planned and then had to pair back to get it into the anthology.
Neve: I knew I’ll do something with mine. I don’t know if I’ll keep it as is or expand it. The idea I originally had came long before the anthology or before I talked to Leslie about the anthology. And so, I guess it’s a matter of figuring out whether I need to do that story as its own thing, or if I can roll everything into it. So, I don’t know, we’ll see.
Jodi: I think mine is, like I said, it started as something broader. I think I probably won’t mess too much with this particular story, but I definitely will use a lot of it in what I have in mind as a larger story. With slightly less constraint you know, and kind of make it, make it bigger and possibly a series. You know how that is like, and then there’s that other idea. So, you know, but yeah, it’ll have another life or a piece of another life, for sure. Yeah.
Mia: No plans but maybe I want to write more characters like Deacon.
Jeff: Please do. We need more characters like Deacon, absolutely.
K.: And I you know, I like to write short stories. So, to me, they’re, they’re done in my head, but I guarantee you, my readers are going to be like, “are you going to write more?”
When you write a short story like that, a lot of times it’s like complete in your head. And so, you could add to it, but it’s I don’t know, it just, it’s just not.
Mia: It’s done.
Jodi: It’s done. I agree. Yeah.
Jeff: So, let’s talk a little bit about what’s coming up for everybody later in the year. So, readers can go out and find some other stuff from you.
K. I’ll come back to you. What’s coming up this year. And how can people actually keep track of you on social media to get all the news?
K.: I actually have a release coming out this month and it’s called “Triple Threat” and it’s a reverse harem and it’s not male/male, but it’s going to be really, really good. I’m excited.
Everybody can find me on TikTok, Facebook. My website is a pretty happenin’ place. People like to go over there and buy banned books.
Jeff: Nice. you sell banned books on your site?
K.: Aha. Yeah, I still.
Jeff: That’s very cool
Leslie: there’s one or two on there I think.
Mia: Yeah, one or two.
K.: There is a couple. People of TikTok like to go over there. So that’s why I like TikTok because they are some purchasing people.
Neve how about you?
Neve: I am going to hopefully in the next year release the third book in my “Rhythm of Love” series and then a fourth book in my “Extracurricular Activities” series, and then I’ve got a like one, maybe, co-writing project happening. And then I have this stand-alone male/male/male idea in my head that, that won’t leave me alone.
And I haven’t written three guys before, because it’s daunting to me and I don’t know the story just won’t stop messing with me now. So, I’m going to write it and maybe it’ll come out, maybe it won’t.
Jeff: At lease you will get it out of your head.
Neve: Yeah, I’ll get it out of my head. So those are just the two things I’ve got coming up imminently.
Mia: I volunteer as a beta tribute for the m/m/m. Yeah.
Leslie: I’ll be your daily cheerleader and yeah. Let’s make this happen.
Neve: I’m taking, y’all up on that.
Jeff: And Neve where people find you online.
Neve: I have a Facebook group, which I love the “Wilders Wild Ones,” and I’m kind of on TikTok, but mostly to look at everyone else’s stuff like K.’s. I love K.’s TikTok and Instagram my website nevewilder.com. I’m NeveWilder on Instagram and basically every everywhere else. So, I’m around, but I’m mostly in my Facebook group.
Mia, what’s up for you later this year?
Mia: Well, I released a book, well today, actually today? Yeah. It’s my first co-write with K M Neuhold. So that was a fun adventure as my first co-write and it was really fun.
Jeff: Yes! “Mountain Topped”
Mia: It’s m/m/m because I think we need more poly in the world.
Mia: And then starting February, I’m releasing a brand new series called “California Crush.” And it’s a hotel set in San Diego and all the guys that work there and their guests who visit them there and all the things they get up to in San Diego. So, I’m really excited about that series, and that’s mostly what’s planning to take me through 2022, except for this paranormal thing I’m on right now. And maybe another co-write.
Jeff: Nice, and what are the places to find you on the internet?
Mia: I am also on Facebook. I have “Mia’s Maniacs” is my reader group. I’m on Instagram and I’m trying to be on there a little bit more. I’m on TikTok, but unlike K., I don’t get any real traction there, but I really do enjoy looking at TikTok, so I am there. You can find me if you really want to interact with me on TikTok.
Jeff: Excellent. And Jodi, What’s in your 2022?
Jodi: I write solo, and I write a lot of co-written books with BA Tortuga. So, solo I have my second in my “Sons of Cape Cod” series, which is a small-town romance, vibe. And that one’s a single dad and a new man in town. And then I got my start in writing f/f or lesbian romance. And I’m actually writing a lesbian romance novel now. Haven’t written one in years. I’m excited about it. I’m excited to have the idea I’m excited to get back into that. So that’s a product in particularly excited about this year.
And then BA and I right now are writing a second chances, opposites attract, shocker, with a bull rider you know, which is one of her, you know, close to her heart type characters and a New York City executive who has a seven-year-old son. Lots to get into with that one. That’s kind of what’s coming from me.
Jeff: And where can we find you online?
Jodi: My Facebook group, “Jodi’s Gents,” is where I spend most of my time. I am sort of on Instagram. I follow everybody on TikTok and don’t try to follow me there because I’m terrible, but I’ll follow you.
But yeah, my Facebook group is the best place, and then my website, jodipayne.net. I have a lot of information there too.
Jeff: Fantastic. Well, it has been so wonderful hanging out with all of you and talking about this year’s “Heart2Heart.” I hope everybody goes to pick up this volume, make it the most successful one ever. You’ve heard four of the great stories here so far, so definitely pick up the volume and check out the rest of them. Thank you all again for being here.
All: Thank you for having us.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. And don’t forget the show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Thanks again to Leslie, Mia, Jodi, K., and Neve for talking to us about their “Heart2Heart” stories, as well as sharing what they are working on for later this year. There’s so much good reading on the horizon there. And make sure you pick up this year’s “Heart2Heart” before it disappears at the end of April.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next in episode 362, author Noah Steele is going to be joining us.
Jeff: Since I loved Noah’s book “Catch Me If I Fall” so so much, I really had to have him on the show so we could talk about it. Not only do we discuss the fun he had writing the book, he also shares some details on what he’s working on now. And I have to say I am so excited about what he’s doing.
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.