Jeff & Will talk about a Valentine’s gift Jeff received, and they discuss some comfort TV they’ve been watching.
Author Noah Steele talks about his second chance, small town romance Catch Me If I Fall, including the inspirations behind Cole and Jasper, the fun he had creating their nostalgia tour, and what went into creating the town of Sugar Hills. Noah also discusses the Cut to the Feeling series, and how the media he consumed growing up turned him into the writer he is today. Since this is a Valentine’s Day episode, he also spins a story about two of his favorite characters going on a Valentine’s date.
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Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Mother’s Valentine Cookies on Target.com
- The Great British Baking Show (aka Great British Bake Off) on Netflix
- The Great Pottery Throw Down on HBO Max
- Mary Berry’s Country House Secrets on PBS
- Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock on Apple+
- Fraggle Rock on Apple+
- Noah Steele Interview
- Noah Steele website | Noah’s Dream Hive Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram
- Catch Me If I Fall by Noah Steele on Amazon
- Cut to the Feeling series by Noah Steele on Amazon
- Racing into Love by Noah Steele on Amazon
- Visions of Love by Noah Steele on Amazon
- Saved by the Bell on Peacock
- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on Netflix
- Marvel vs. Capcom Two on Amazon
- Gilmore Girls on Netflix
- Your Book Boyfriend’s Boyfriend Giveaway on Prolific Works (find Noah’s Sounds Like Love in this giveaway)
- Final Fantasy Seven on Amazon
- Sailor Moon website
- Magic Knight Rayearth on Amazon Prime Video
- Cardcaptor Sakura on Netflix
- Utena on Crunchyroll
- 700 Member Flash Fiction featuring Rex and Frey on Noah’s Dream Hive on Facebook
- Whispers of Love by Noah Steele on NoahSteele.com (subscribe to Noah’s Newsletter to receive)
- The Falcon and the Foe by A.J. Truman on Amazon
- The Night Parade of 100 Demons by Marie Brennan on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- 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, author Noah Steele joins us to talk about his second chance romance, “Catch Me If I Fall.”
Jeff: Welcome to episode 362 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: Hello, rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for a Valentine’s Day edition of the show.
Jeff: And happy Valentine’s Day to you, my Valentine husband.
Will: Right back at ya.
Jeff: I have to share this Valentine that Will got me because it was so sweet and yet a little ridiculous at the same time. So, he brought me this very cute Valentine box of Mother’s cookies. They’re usually frosted animal crackers, but for Valentine’s Day they’ve done pink and white X’s and O’s.
The box was so adorable. The reason why I bring this up is kind of a funny thing. Inside of it, instead of cookies that were nestled into little compartments, like you would find in a box of chocolates, they had put just a little bag of cookies in this really cute box. It was such a missed opportunity to have a very cute arrangement of cookies, but he got me a cute box of cookies and I very much appreciated it.
Will: Well, I’m glad you did, because I certainly didn’t. It was spectacularly underwhelming because you have to picture the heart shaped box is the standard size of a box of Valentine’s candy. So, when you open it and you find like a two-ounce, single serving baggie of cookies, not even having the product listed on the bag. It is a completely generic, not for resale white bag, full of a handful of cookies. It’s not happy.
Jeff: Well, it was ridiculous. I appreciated the gesture though. And I still have the box actually in my office for some Valentine’s decorations. So, it was a win at an oddity, but the cookies were good. And, you know, that’s kind of all that mattered in the long run. Plus, you got me a cute Valentine. Anyway, just thought I’d share that as part of our Valentine’s episode.
You know, a few weeks back we talked about watching a whole bunch of boat movies and since the boat movies, we have completely gone back into full-out comfort TV mode and been re-watching British television. I think we have found that British television might be the most comforting thing ever. We’ve been back watching “Bake Off.” We’ve been re-watching “Great Pottery Throw Down.” We’ve been watching Mary Berry tour castles in England, which if you’ve not seen that show on PBS, that’s a magical thing on its own.
Why do you think we’ve gone back to British television? What is it that just makes these so, so wonderful to just chill out and watch?
Will: Well, it’s actually a couple of different things. Partially because January was such trash.
Will: I wanted something that I knew would be comforting. Amongst all those boat movies, we also attempted to watch other things that in our experience, we’re pretty damn disappointing. So combined with the real world and being let down by media, we just needed to return to something that we knew was a known commodity.
Jeff: And it is just so pleasant to watch. I swear I could watch those all the time. My memory is such that there’s still a surprise. I can remember certain bakes or certain pottery moments. I often don’t remember who won episodes and won entire series and things that happened. So, it’s almost like watching it for the first time, in some ways, which is kind of ridiculous, but pleasant.
Will: Yeah, you’re right. I’m kind of almost like watching some of these are the first time again for the second time. It doesn’t make any sense at all. And like you, I can never remember who wins. Which is precisely why it’s so wonderful. Who wins is completely besides the point.
Jeff: It really is.
I hope Netflix actually corrects something that happened at the beginning of the year. Something went down with the licensing for the “Bake Off” and they’ve lost the early episodes when Mel and Sue were hosting, and when Mary Barry was a judge. Those disappeared on January 1st, and they desperately need to get those back. I can’t even tell you, I miss those so much. I love the new hosts. I love the new episodes. But I want those classic episodes back as well.
Now we have had one bright spot of brand new programming that is also ridiculously comforting at the same time. And that is the return of new episodes of “Fraggle Rock,” which are airing on Apple+ right now. It’s called “Fraggle Rock: Return to the Rock.” I have to say I was not a “Fraggle Rock” watcher back in the day when they were running on HBO. I don’t know why. I don’t know if I didn’t have maybe HBO at the time, or just what was going on.
You showed me a few “Fraggle Rocks” since they showed up on one of the streaming services, back a couple of years ago. But these new episodes are just amazing. The music, the color, the Muppets. Oh, my goodness. I’ve enjoyed these so, so much.
Will: I think whenever Hollywood announces that they’re revisiting a known property, a beloved one from all of our childhoods, generally, I think that is an occasion for celebration and hesitation. Because there’s the possibility of it being completely amazing, but more often than not you get let down because it’s total garbage.
Will: But in my opinion, the only trash in this series is Marjory the Trash Heap.
This “Fraggle” series isn’t necessarily a remake. Really, I think it’s more just a continuation of what came before. There are just a few updated tweaks, but really, it’s all the same characters that we loved before in brand new advance.
Jeff: Yeah, I really love it. I’m going to have to get you to show me the original “Fraggles” at some point. That could just be more comfort TV continuation there, because these episodes are cute and charming, full of good songs. I can just kind of sit and, you know, bounce along on the couch while we’re watching them cause they’re just wonderful. You could find the new “Fraggle Rock,” and for that matter, the old “Fraggle Rock” episodes on Apple+ TV.
Now, if you’ve listened to the podcast for any amount of time, you know, that I absolutely love second chance romances and Noah Steele really knocked that trope out of the park with his recent book, “Catch Me If I Fall.” I adored Jasper and Cole’s story so much, and I had a fun time talking to Noah about the book.
We get into all kinds of conversations, including how he envisions the town of Sugar Hills. How he came up with the amazing nostalgia tour that the guys embark on. It’s so great. And because it’s Valentine’s Day, Noah’s got a special little Valentine’s treat for us as well, and he shares what he’s working on now, and we even get some book recommendations too.
Now, a little behind the scenes thing on the podcast here. You know, we’ve done this show now for over six years. That doesn’t mean I don’t mess up sometimes when I’m recording things. To be quite frank, I sound horrible in this episode because somehow, I was on the wrong microphone when Noah and I were talking. So, I apologize for how I sound, but it doesn’t take away from some of the great stories that Noah tells to us right here.
Noah Steele Interview
Jeff: Noah, welcome to the podcast. It is incredible to have you here.
Noah: I’m really excited to be here.
Jeff: I knew from the moment that I finished “Catch Me If I Fall” it’s time to have you here, because that book, you know, I said it in the review that it was like one of the most perfect second chance stories that I ever read.
Noah: And I still can’t believe.
Jeff: Just the way that you brought Jasper and Cole together. It was just like, oh, this book, it’s everything.
Tell us about, for those who haven’t heard my review, or maybe haven’t picked it up yet, in your words, tell us about the story and what goes on in it.
Noah: Yeah, well, I mean, so I like to think that I’m really good at feelings.
I think at its heart, “Catch Me If I Fall,” honestly, like it’s just a book about making sense of a very nostalgia-studded, emotional past. To build an exciting future with someone you’re comfortable with, but don’t necessarily know the way that you did before. Right? Like, so it’s the story of Cole Bixby and Jasper Fox. They’re ex-childhood best friends.
They had like a big drift because of a hasty confession of feelings that led to a very hasty teenage decision on Cole’s part. Fifteen years later, they find themselves back in their hometown. Different people, and yet familiar enough to still feel kind of the same. We follow their stories through a sort of a similarly nostalgia-studded trip through the highlights of their friendship and it’s the send-off they never got to give each other in their senior year of high school. And you know, because it’s me, big emotions and lots of romance happens along the way.
Jeff: I hadn’t really thought of it the way that you just described it, that it was the sendoff they didn’t get when they exited high school, because of the fact that they didn’t even attend graduation together because of what happened.
Jeff: That’s a great way to look at it. Now, see I have a whole different lens all of a sudden.
Noah: I honestly can’t even remember if I have Jasper say that exact thing, and in one of those early chapters that he wants to like, do this whole nostalgic tour because it’s something they never got to do together, and it’s a chance to reconnect.
Jeff: What was the inspiration for you to come up with Jasper and Cole?
Noah: I’m super character driven. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book that didn’t start with the characters before absolutely anything else. And that’s, that goes the same for my earlier, like “Cut to the Feeling” series books. Even though I knew where things were going, it was the characters that had to solidify themselves from me first.
So, Cole, Cole, is really just like a, what if alternative version of me, honestly. He’s like, he’s my impulsiveness. He’s my quick temper. I like to call him the bruised parts of me that I wished could let things go a little more readily. And I think that comes across pretty clearly in the way that I have him react to a lot of what goes on with Jasper kind of suddenly reappearing in his life in a way that he didn’t think was ever going to happen.
Once I had a clearer idea of the town in my head, I knew Cole had to be a librarian. I love hot librarians. It’s really that simple, I think.
Jeff: Librarians, booksellers, it’s a thing.
Noah: Yeah. Well, I mean, I had, like, I had a bookseller way back in “Racing into Love” and I just, it was a natural evolution. Like I’m starting something new. It was my first book not set in my “Cut to the Feelings” series. So why not sort of like touch on a little bit of that nostalgia for me too.
But also, it’s like “Final Fantasy Nine” is a thing that comes up in “Catch Me If I Fall” quite a bit. One of the most memorable places for me in that game was Alexandria Castle’s library. So, I think it’s been something close to my heart to want to be able to do something with a library and a librarian and just have them be bigger than what they think they are for a long time. And Cole got to let me live that little fantasy.
Jasper was a lot more elusive though. In his original incarnations, Jasper was supposed to be this absolutely smarmy, like too big for a small-town success story, rich guy who like comes back and sort of rediscovers the magic that he lost when he moved away for the first time. And then none of that ended up working out. I hated it.
Jeff: I’m glad you hated it, that’s a whole different story.
Noah: It is. It was a completely different book and it just, it wasn’t feeling right. And I’ve now learned to trust that instinct that when it’s not feeling right, it’s because you’re pushing the characters to do something that they’re not interested in doing.
And for as much as they come from me, they’re their own people too, on that page. So, Jasper kind of became this, this idealized, like dreamy figure of like exactly the kind of guy that would’ve made, like closeted high school me absolutely melt. And I built that around the parts of me that were really apparent in Cole.
And I think that it, it worked out for them to be such intense opposites while still having that like thread of really common interests and memories that they shared together.
Jeff: I got to talk about the library a little bit.
Jeff: Just because the idea of the library and the living space above the library. This place is amazing.
Noah: Yeah. I’m really obsessed with places that exist on top of other places. It’s a theme through a lot of my books.
Jeff: Is this a real place or did you create this library?
Noah: No, the whole thing is fictional. Sugar Hills, Ontario does not exist. And it makes me sad all the time, because I think that a super queer friendly Canadian, small town would be a stunning place to spend a lot of time. So, I invented one because that’s what I wanted.
Jeff: I would totally go to this library. We need to like create this library somewhere.
Noah: Yeah, the library itself it’s one of the first places in the town that I really knew had to exist. Because it was just stuck in my head that I needed to have something happen in a building that at one point used to be a church, because that feels very dramatic in a lapsed Catholic kind of way.
Why not have someone translate like so much of what they love about video games and like other pop culture and media, and like almost all of the references that I was so happy to just throw into the writing process for this book. Why not have someone interpret that into a career sort of centered around stories and being able to recommend books and share all of that with someone else?
Jeff: The glimpses that we get of the library, because we see Cole at work and seeing what he does. And it was just like, oh, this place. Right down the cat.
Noah: That little cat was based on my cat, who I very unfortunately lost about a year ago now. So, like Cole it’s very me.
Jeff: Well, it’s good that you got to immortalize your cat in the book.
Then kind of the other thing too, that you touched on, you didn’t put this book in the “Cut to the Feeling” series. And certainly, we see these days, so many authors, even as they create new series, they all, you know, have that tie back to one universe.
How did you decide to leave it outside the universe, as opposed to just like putting it in there for future crossover material?
Noah: So, there was a point where after finishing “Visions of Love,” Mark’s book, I was pretty set on having Theo who everyone meets in the very first book have his own story to sort of capstone the series end it on like a big group, high note kind of thing.
And the, the harder I thought about that, the worse it was trying to make it a reality. And so, at that point I knew that it was something that I had to put on the back burner and let “Cut to the Feeling” be what it was. It just didn’t feel like I had anything more to give in that fictional city that I don’t even think I ever really gave a name. Like that’s how nebulous it wasn’t my mind. And like sure, it’s absolutely one of those lessons that you learn in like indie authorship “Cut to the Feeling” was my first series over four books. I learned a lot of lessons on what to do and what not to do.
And I think it just makes sense to have that be a very contained universe that is, you know, chapter one in Noah Steele’s authorship journey. Where Catch Me if I Fall,” it’s a departure. It’s really like at its core, it’s the same stuff that you’ll get out of every Noah Steele book, but to a much higher level, I think. It’s exactly where I’m taking things moving forward. So “Cut to the Feeling” is, is very deliberately not connected to “Catch Me If I Fall” and I think that I’m okay with that.
Jeff: Yeah. You’ve got plenty of time to build the Noah Steele multi-verse so.
Noah: Yeah, I have been very lovingly referring to it as the Noah Steele Gay Romance Cinematic Universe.
Jeff: There you go. We’ll call it that from now on. Cause the cinematic part’s important for when you get the Netflix deal.
Let’s talk about the reminiscing tour a little bit, because it was so fantastic how you just kept sending them to these various places. How did you piece that together to know I want to go to this kind of place in this kind of play in this kind of place.
Noah: I had maybe the most fun of my career trying to figure out where they were going to go in this small town. Because like in my mind, like my small-town experience, having moved out of a city into small town for a tiny, tiny fraction of high school was nothing like the experience of living in Sugar Hills for Jasper and Cole.
But everything in Sugar Hills is exactly what I wished that brief high school period of my life would have been. So, a lot of it came out of earlier parts of my life when I was still living in the city. And it was just a lot more fun for me. Like all the time that I spent in local parks with friends became a secret forest hangout.
I was not an adventurous kid, so knowing that they were going to do that very first excursion where they’re going out to like the rotted decrepit remains of their old childhood clubhouse in the forest to like rebuild something around it and like make something new out of it, was like my chance to sort of dig into a part of a childhood that I was never going to have.
Right. Like, I’m not the kid who’s like trying to record werewolf sounds in the forest, chasing down urban legends. I’m the kid who was like helicopter parented into, like, if I hear someone whistle from a block away, I’m going home.
But I knew that like I wanted this town to have staples because every good small town has staples. I think every good small town in a small-town romance is its own character. And for me that was it right down to like the colorful businesses. And they’re very colorful punny names. And just having like memorable people be centered around Jasper and Cole to sort of guide them through this. So, like a lot of it, like I’m not going to sit here and say that the whole thing was like super meticulously planned out. A lot of it was absolutely made up on the spot and I just kind of liked it, so I kept it.
But the pizza place. What did I call it? Cheese the Day? That was the callback to basically every diner scene I had ever seen watching “Saved by the Bell” or “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” in the nineties. Right? Like it’s that, that one staple place where everyone in town goes to eat and just like kill an afternoon afterschool or something.
The, the bar, arcade hybrid was just plucked right out of those summers where I spent, unfortunately not unlimited quarters on “Marvel vs Capcom Two,” three blocks from home, like every day after school, but elevated to like a version that would make sense for like two adult men who have a very nostalgic attachment to playing a lot of video games.
I guess that’s all it really was, I guess, is wanting to take a bunch of stuff that I really loved when I was a kid and a teen and reinterpret it for two guys who are like, I think I wrote them to be my age now. So, I kind of just wrote it as if I was writing friends that I would love to have.
I wanted to do it in a way that made sure that this town came alive around these two guys so that it, it didn’t feel like it was just sort of them in this vacuum all the time.
Jeff: Was there a trip you wanted to send them on that got cut or that you just could not make it work?
Noah: So much of it sort of came out of the moment and like where I wanted them to be. I didn’t have to cut anything, but I was kind of bummed that some things didn’t feel as major as I hoped they would be by the end.
Like the gazebo, the town gazebo in the town square, I think where they had that first conversation after Cole literally crashes his bike into Jasper moving boxes into Evan’s bakery. I thought that gazebo was going to be a major player. I really did.
That gazebo for me is like my callback to just really loving Stars Hollow in “Gilmore Girls.” And because that gazebo was in every background shot. That gazebo was the town. So, I wanted something kind of similar and then just very quickly realized that because so much other stuff was happening in places that just mattered so much more to them.
That it was enough that the gazebo had its moment in the prologue.
Jeff: To me, the gazebo, because it was kind of where they had that conversation after the bike crash, which was in its own way quite humorous, was almost like their re-meet cute, and then everything kind of happened from there.
Noah: I will take it.
Jeff: All yours.
Because it’s where they’re forced to have the conversation again, as opposed to, “Oh, he’s back. He’s back. I haven’t seen it yet. Haven’t seen him yet.” And then they crash into each other and then have to go have a conversation about it.
Noah: I think that the only way in my mind that those two were going to get over the last 15 years to actually start a conversation rather than skirt around and still not really feel comfortable checking in on each other was to make it a thing they couldn’t avoid. Like it had to be a literal crash.
Jeff: Yeah. It totally like worked to smash them back together again, or at least start the journey.
In terms of a favorite scene. And that you could almost take this in two ways. Like what’s your favorite scene in the book? And then if it’s not the same, do you have a favorite of the nostalgia tour that might be separate from an overall scene?
Noah: So, I think my favorite scene to read was not my favorite scene to write. They’re different. And I think I have like some, some really close ties.
My favorite scene to write was the Barcade night where Cole reveals that he has been keeping up as a regular at this place, since it was taken over by new owners in the town and just absolutely destroyed Jasper in a drunken video game fit.
It was so much fun for me to be able to do that with Cole’s personality, with Jasper having an opportunity to be the one who was taken aback for once.
I had so much fun integrating Evan and Sabina as really close friends that just sort of solidified that little group unit. And just letting them sort of have the night devolve into some like drunken teenage fit in their early thirties felt right. It felt like it was something that they needed to just really learn what it means to actually let go of the more painful parts that they don’t need to be holding on to from their friendship anymore.
But my favorite scene to read is always, always going to be a tie between Jasper’s shower scene and Jasper quoting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to Cole at the pizza place.
“Midsummer Night’s Dream” is by far my favorite experience, when it comes to anything Shakespeare related. I had the opportunity to see it live at Shakespeare in High Park, I think a few years back now. And I knew that I was going to find the right place to throw it in to something that I love equally as much. And I’m so, so happy that Jasper gave me the opportunity and the chance to make a bottoming joke.
Jeff: Because how can you not with “Midsummer.”
Noah: How can you not?
Jeff: Currently this is a standalone. Is the intention to leave it that way? Or do we get to come back to this fabulous town?
Noah: That’s a hard question. I think in some ways we’ll come back and in some ways we won’t. I think that Cole and Jasper’s story is done, for sure.
I think if I ever revisit them, it’ll probably just be in a bonus scene, maybe having them trying to reign in a very unruly adopted five-year-old child or something. But nobody hold me to that. It’ll happen if it happens.
Jeff: They would make such amazing dads.
Noah: They absolutely would.
But I don’t think I’m done in that town. I don’t, I don’t know that that specific town will make super prominent appearances. But I am having a lot of fun in this little, small town, like the beginnings of this little, small-town world that I’ve built for myself. And Sugar Hills, Ontario feels like it was an excellent sandbox to sort of really nail down how I want to do small town romances my way.
So, maybe I’m sure it’s, it’s not going to be hard for you to guess that there’s a character who’s like, sort of in there chittering for his own happily ever after to finally hit the page.
Jeff: I can imagine. I’m seeing a certain person who gave up a bakery.
Noah: Maybe, maybe, maybe. So, I, I, I know that Evan’s not speaking right now, but I know that he deserves the happy ending that I really want to give him. He was maybe my favorite side character I’ve ever written.
Jeff: What made Evan stand out so much for you?
Noah: Evan is, in my mind, like quintessential capital S capital B, sad boy. Like he is, all kinds of emotions and wears his heart on his sleeve but will never cop to it. And that’s just a lot of fun for me to dive into because everyone else can see exactly what emotions he’s feeling, because he thinks that he’s hiding them and he’s not.
So, Evan was a lot of fun for me to dive into as a side character, because he was so wrapped up in Cole and Jasper’s friendship, relationship, whatever it is right from the start, like he’s got the opening line of the book.
And there’s just, there’s something about him that makes me feel like he, like… I want to put them in a little blanket and give them a little mug of tea and say, look, you’re going to be fine because I’m not going to let someone hurt you. Evan to me feels like a natural extension of Mark, my leading guy from “Visions of Love,” who I think was like my sad boy template.
Jeff: Well, hopefully Evan speaks up to you at some point, whenever that is.
Noah: Yeah. I’ve, I’ve got some ideas that may or may not involve some things happening on a road trip with a certain person that he might end up running into unexpectedly when he returns to his own hometown, where I think lots of stories are going to be set.
So, Sugar Hills is I don’t want to say it’s like a closed for the season kind of thing, but it’s more likely to make appearances as cameos and references with like the place and the characters in my like broader expanding world of small-town romances.
Jeff: So, let’s dive back into the past a little bit.
Noah: Okay, let’s go on a nostalgia tour together.
Jeff: A little nostalgia tour, yes, right now. It’s been about three years since you did Cut to The Feeling” and started that series. For those who have not picked up that part of your catalog. What’s the rundown on that series?
Noah: Oh, my gosh. “Cut to the Feeling” is so near and dear to my heart for so many reasons. My absolutely first ever foray into indie authorship.
“Racing into Love” came to me as an idea pretty quickly. And I think in some ways that shows in the way that I wrote it. But I’m, over the moon with “Cut to The Feeling.” It’s, it’s a series that feels really different from where I am now, post “Catch Me If I fall,” but it’s a series of single point of view and insta-love romance.
It’s like every single book in that series as an insta-love romance, because that’s the trope that I feel people love to hate. And I don’t love that. I think that it’s adorable trope and there’s so much that you can do with it. And I wanted to do something with it.
It’s centered around a group of friends and each book is, one different guy in that core friend group paired with, who I like to call the outsiders. Who sort of make their way in and like ignite those instance sparks for that friend group. And it’s got a hefty amount of opposites attract. It’s got some nerd-jock Oh my God. It’s, it’s honestly like long enough ago now that I don’t totally remember what I did with all of those books.
I’m not somebody who likes to re-read my own work. It’s exactly the kind of thing that I wanted to do that I can now say that I very happily refined. Like it’s very slice of life, low angst. In lots of ways, it’s very soap opera. And I honestly kind of didn’t realize that until recently, but I’d love that revelation. That’s my little collection of crazy soap opera insta-love, romances that you should absolutely read. If you think that you will love that.
Jeff: Yeah. I agree with you that I think insta-love gets kind of cast off to the side a lot. It’s like, eh, they got together too quick. But I think even if they get together and know they’re in love so quickly, there’s still a lot to do with them.
Noah: There’s, there’s so much stuff that people are beyond the, like immediate apparent emotions in a romance novel, you know? Like yeah, they meet really fast. They fall in love really fast. They might not admit that it’s love really fast though. There might be some other extenuating circumstances, like say a money obsessed manager or a stalker who loves a particular like famous foreign artist? I don’t know. I told you it was a soap opera.
Jeff: You’ve mentioned a couple of times how your style and things have really changed since “Cut to the Feeling” into
Noah: They have.
Jeff: “Catch Me If I Fall.” How would you categorize what that change has been?
Noah: I think it’s, it’s honestly more than anything else. I don’t know. I don’t love to get like super deep into businessy, like authory kind of talk sometimes, but I think more than anything else, it’s just a clearer idea of who I am writing as Noah Steele, right? Like it’s obviously it’s a pen name. If my real name was Noah Steele, are you kidding me? That would have been gold.
Jeff: It is a great name.
Noah: But it’s yeah, it’s totally just a refinement of what I’m doing with Noah Steele as a low-angst gay romance writer. I think that “Catch Me If I Fall,” really helped me nail down the essence of what I want to do is smutty indie movies perfect for the CW Network.
You know, like it’s, it’s low angst. It’s high emotion. It’s slice of life melodrama. And “Cut to the Feeling” was a little bit of that. And I think that those were the parts that people really responded to. Like I’ve been really lucky in meeting a lot of readers who resonated really strongly with those books.
And I’m always going to be super thankful for that. And I think that it’s those people who are going to go from “Cut to the Feeling” to “Catch Me If I Fall” and like, really feel that dial turned up to like a 15 out of 10.
Jeff: So, this interview is going out on Valentine’s Day. I asked you if you would, think about your characters and decide to maybe send one of them on a date. Tell us about what their Valentine’s date just might be.
Noah: I had to go with Mark and Connor because, Mark is… Once again, he’s my, my original sad boy template. And he, I think, does not get his due because his book comes so late in the series. And I just, I want more people to pick up Mark and Connor’s book. I really genuinely do because they were such a cathartic thing to write in a way that I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to explain except for non-verbally, with sounds.
I like to think that for where they’re at now, like post “Visions of Love”, post that series wrapping in their lives. Mark is still learning not to let work consume him a little bit. That was a big deal for him. I like to think that by the end of “Cut to the Feeling,” he’s taken on a lot more at the coffee shop and then Connor just kind of surprises him with a trip to Sugar Hills Ontario, because if the series aren’t going to be related for real, I might as well just have fun, right?
Noah: They’re just going to go to Sugar Hills, Ontario, where they rent a cozy rustic cabin for a weekend. I think Connor spends the first night making animal sounds, while Mark cooks and quietly agonizes over the best time to propose. Of course, he has no idea Connor is thinking the same thing.
I think they drive into town. Maybe they laugh across the table from each other while they’re carving into stacks of pancakes for breakfast the next morning. I think packets of syrup absolutely find their way into Connor’s pockets and then into some other less appropriate outdoor activities in the forest. And then I think that in the heat of that moment, Connor blurts out his proposal before Mark even has the chance to like get on one knee and pull out a ring.
And then they tumble back to town together. They’re smiling nonstop. I think in all his Scottish glory, Connor just gets very loud and very proud about something so exciting as like a new chapter for him. And they just take a beat and sort of as that day goes on and they let the streetlights come to life around them in the town square, because I will give this gazebo its moment.
And who knows, maybe Jasper and Cole are closing up the gallery that night and cheering because they can hear Connor cheering from the gazebo about, you know, about to be married. And then he obviously like at some point in that trip before they go home, goes to buy more syrup. And then live happily ever after it.
Jeff: Gotta get the syrup, especially after how it plays into the potential of the proposal itself. I love that you did a proposal for them.
Noah: Of all of the couples that I’ve written, some of them are just straight up too young for it to make sense for me. Cause I’ve done “Cut to the Feelings” was a bit of a mix it’s like contemporary guys in their like mid- to late-twenties and also new adult. Which in hindsight, maybe not the greatest choice. I don’t care. it was fun. But if anyone was going to get married, it was going to be Jasper and Cole, Mark and Connor, and Aiden and Derek.
You, you get to see a little bit of it too in “Sounds Like Love” it’s the novella that I have in that, that huge, like your Book Boyfriend’s Boyfriend Prolific Works m/m giveaway thing going on for the duration of 2022. If you haven’t picked up reads from it already, please feel free. Like, they are all so fantastic. I’ve had the best time, just grinning ear to ear reading through so many of them.
You get to see a little bit of post proposal Aiden and Derek making a little bit of a cameo in Theo’s story. And it just made sense that Mark and Connor would be in a very similar place, I think. Who knows, maybe I’ll revisit some of these things in bonuses. I can never say for sure. I’m very flighty.
Jeff: We’ve already got the seeds of it right here. I just paint in the rest of it.
Noah: It’s true. Maybe this is how we revisit Sugar Hills.
Jeff: You know, if you write it, then it really becomes canon, and you join these places together. So be careful when you do that.
Noah: What if listeners tell me if they want me to do that? What if we put it in their hands so that it doesn’t have to be in mine?
Jeff: There you go, listeners. dropping a little line, leave us a comment somewhere on social, on the show notes, wherever you want to do it.
Noah: Yeah. I love that.
Jeff: You realize now though I’m going to have to come in when this drops and tell everybody in your group, go listen to this. Hear what he says, and then come harass him right here.
Noah: Well, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing.
Jeff: Not a bad thing.
Noah: I love my Facebook group.
Jeff: Because you’ve got one of the best places to hang out at Facebook, you know?
Noah: Oh my God. Thank you.
Jeff: It’s always happy. I like the whole honeybees thing that you set up. It’s really lovely.
Noah: See, that’s another video game throwback for me. That’s “Final Fantasy Seven’s” Honeybee Inn which absolutely was gay rights.
Jeff: Did not know that. I was going to ask you the origin of the honeybees just cause I was curious.
Noah: I also just really like bees.
Jeff: That works too!
So, continuing our, this nostalgia tour. Go even further back. What got you started writing?
Noah: Oh God, I, is it cliche to just say that I like always kind of been a storyteller? Evan as early as like 9 or 10 years old, like writing goofy short stories for class projects in elementary school was always just a lot of fun for me. It was really, really fulfilling. And that sort of just got stronger and stronger the deeper I got into like my whole media world to just being powerfully obsessed with like nineties, early two thousands Shudra anime and manga.
Like I will go to bat for “Sailor Moon” and “Magic Knight Rayearth” and like “Cardcaptor Sakura” and “Utena” every day, like every day. They are like fundamental for exactly who I am as a person.
And that obviously spiraled into writing a lot of intense fan fiction. Yeah, because “Sailor Moon” wasn’t brave enough to give me Tuxedo Mask actually falling in love with his best friend who ran the arcade. So, I gave it to myself.
Jeff: Okay. There you go. It’s the best of fanfic when you just take two characters and boom, now you’re together if only in my head.
Noah: Works for me, probably works for a lot of people on the internet too.
Jeff: It definitely does. And people of course, who write in our very genre, so many started in that fan fic space.
Noah: Gorgeous that so much of m/m started in a space that feels like so open and free and just like lush with material, right? Like it’s such a natural evolution to go from like creating things like that, to creating original content that is just so, from the go, explicitly queer. And just vibrant and full of so many different kinds of representations of queerness. It’s so nice to just be immersed in all of that.
Jeff: I mean, I love what you’ve got in your bio that says, you “believe that queerness is strength, and the men at the heart of your books embody that strength without experiencing queerness as a roadblock to happiness.” I mean, that’s exactly what I want to find in a romance.
Noah: Yeah. Well, I mean, I like to think that that’s exactly what I’m giving. Even when I like dabble in the discovering sexuality trope, I absolutely will refuse to engage with that trope if it’s presented to me as someone who is just out the gate thinking they can’t be happy because they’re discovering a queer part of themselves, you know?
Like I lived that. I don’t need that anymore. Like I’m, I’m, post that personally. But like, I obviously understand the value of that for someone who might be experiencing that needs to like just connect with a character who’s going through the same. Like if there’s always going to be a place for stuff like that in fiction, right?
Like so many of us probably had a character like that when we were younger or older, like whenever it was that we were sort of first toying with the idea of coming out in life. But I don’t think that it’s a thing that I want to engage in my own writing. So, I always try to do it as like a very excited, like, oh, maybe I do want to do things with men. Let’s, let’s go on a little journey and find out.
I just don’t love heavy angst surrounding that. It’s just too, it’s too real lifey for me and I like part of why I do like romance specifically, and why I gravitated to romance specifically is because it’s such stunning escapist fiction.
You can and should probably see like some bits of realism into it because stuff still has to make sense. But I don’t think that hyper fixating is the way. I want to be immersed in a romance that looks kind of like my world, but probably doesn’t operate totally the same way, even when it’s contemporary,
I think what really drew me into writing romance specifically, it’s more a combination of things. It’s a little bit of like the part of my life before I met my current boyfriend of like 11 or 12 years now, where I had that like messy period of being a newly out queer kid away from home for the first time.
And yikes, like that was a rough two or three years. And there were a lot of times where I really, really felt like something stable and happy was just not in the cards for me. And you know, pair that with being a kind of depressive, hopeless romantic, it was not a healthy mix.
And I didn’t really love that whenever I tried to turn to the media that wasn’t like… Basically it had to be fanfic for it to be a happy ending for someone queer at the time that I was really heavily engaging with more queer media at like in my earlier years. Because stuff that was in existing media, like on TV and even in like movies and music to an extent, it felt like queer men kind of just existed for years to be like, PSA’s, self-hating pools of angst, or dead.
I don’t want that. I would very much like to believe that there’s so much more out there for us than that. And a big part of that is being able to fall in love and do everything we want to do. And I think that we’ve definitely reached a place now where like, it’s totally, it’s a totally different landscape, you know what I mean?
And like I don’t think that I need to like break myself to try to reinvent a wheel because there’s so many of us doing that work and putting that into motion to make the current landscape of queer friendly media and queer centric media, exactly what it is. Like, we know what we want out of it, because we already had so many of those experiences not getting what we wanted out of other media.
I’m out here doing romance because I am like truly in my heart, I am just like a rabid sewer gremlin who wants to be fed smutty queers, happy things after midnight all the time. And I figure if like, I’m not going to get that from like basically everywhere, I’m going to do a lot of work to just put that on my own plate.
Jeff: That might be the perfect, like little pull quote moment from this interview.
Noah: Well, if anyone’s going to associate me with anything, it might as well being a smut gremlin. Why not?
Jeff: Is there some other sub-genre or even a genre outside of romance, that you kind of want to play in that you haven’t quite taken the leap on yet?
Noah: Yeah, so I grew up on like a very healthy dose of lots of like urban fantasy, supernatural themed stuff. And whether it’s an urban fantasy with queer characters that isn’t necessarily a romance, but has a romantic plot, or it is very explicitly a paranormal romance. I would really love to do something paranormal someday.
And like it’s, it’s on the plate. There’s a teeny tiny short, in my Facebook group that readers got to read about a pair of guys named Rex and Frey, who are respectively, a werewolf and a witch. And that was just like a fun little throwaway, I think fall themed thing that I did. That is very rapidly becoming a thing that is demanding more of my attention. I don’t know that I’m there for it yet. I think that there’s a lot of stuff that has to work itself out in my head surrounding those two, before I finally sit down and say, it’s going to be a paranormal book next time and who knows if I’ll even do it under the name Noah Steele. I don’t know. I can’t say probably not.
Jeff: Hopefully you’ll at least share what that pen name is, and it won’t be just some secrety thing that goes on.
Noah: Yeah, absolutely. And like, I’m not trying to be teasey, I promise like.
Noah: This other pen name does not exist right now. It really does not.
Like if I ever decided to do paranormal, why not? it’s something that I’m super like intimately familiar with. And it’s something that I love to read constantly. I think almost every one of my major inspirations has some sort of either supernatural or like magical realism bent to it.
So, it’s kind of a, marvel that I’ve put myself so firmly in this realm of like contemporary new adult, slice of life stuff rather than the rest.
Jeff: Interesting. Okay. Well, yeah. Paranormal from Noah’s Steele or Noah Steele writing as, dot dot dot.
Noah: I would love to be the “and” on something. Do you remember like the title cards on like “Charmed” and would always be like Holly Marie Combs as Piper Hallowell? I want to be that “and, as.”
Jeff: Yeah, there was always those couple of people who are extra special “and, as.”
Noah: Yeah. Yes!
Jeff: Or, you know, even how some people are always like special guest star, even though they’re on every single episode of something. Extra special, something. Our little pop culture, side conversation there.
Noah: Well, if we’re talking about, “Catch Me If I Fall,” we can’t not talk about pop culture, right? Like there was so much stuff that I just threw into a hat and was like, this one’s going in. This one’s going in. This one’s going in. My editor will just take things out if I’m not allowed to go crazy.
Jeff: You mentioned characters are kind of where you start, but as you plot are you, just sitting down to write, so it’s all seat of your pants? Or do you have sketched out what you want the plot to be, and then you’re going to drive towards that direction?
Noah: In the earliest baby days of Noah Steele existing as a person on the internet. I was an absolute, pure pantser, flying wherever the wind was going to take me that day. We’ll see what happens with this next chapter. I will learn about the characters on the go. And I just can’t write like that anymore.
I think that when I had that big sort of quagmire that I got bogged down in with “Cut to the Feeling” being so stuck… This is a thing that I talk about with readers in my newsletter all the time is, is part of like, like the, the process that I go through, and I’m stuck with a book I have to like shelve things.
But Mark’s book, “Visions of Love,” I halted at chapter five of that book for almost a year. It was the first time I really sat down to consciously write myself like a proper outline for the remainder of that story. And it made maybe the single biggest difference of my career at the time. The rest of that book came so easily and so naturally with just a few notes left here and there, for where to take them.
And so, everything after that, like with the “Whispers of Love” “Cut to the Feeling” prequel novella, “Sounds like Love” and “Catch Me If I Fall,” we’re all done with full outlines. Like not super detailed outlines because I can’t take the fun out of writing for myself like that. But enough that like I could really get going and like, I’m always going to have that one chapter in there that is like chapter seven, boning, emotions and not every chapter has to be super detailed, and that’s fine.
Jeff: Right, you leave yourself, like you said, room to have fun and discover other things as, you know, the characters speak up.
What’s something you’ve read recently that you think our listeners should pick up?
Noah: I got to read this one early and I was really excited that I did. A.J. Truman just released the first book in a new “Single Dad” series called “The Falcon and the Foe.” It’s hilarious. Like this book is so funny and so driven with personality that I like immediately will snatch it up three more times if anyone asks me to. Like, it’s so it’s so great. It’s a fantastic enemies to lovers starring single dads.
Like he wrote it so well that I cared about the children. And like, normally I don’t gravitate toward child characters because children are so often written in a way that I just do not connect with. But these kids added so much personality to this story and so much depth to their parents and so much weight to like everything that was going on between them emotionally or otherwise that “The Falcon and the Foe” I think is like such a really cute blend of levity with seriousness in a way that made me root for these like older guys finding love with each other.
And I also just, I kind of love that it was such a departure from like the, the very, firm like new adult to like maximum like 32 age range that I tend to find myself reading in. What a breath of fresh air to just break out of that. A.J. like really, really delivered with this book.
Jeff: That’s awesome. I love A.J.’s other series. I’ve been looking at this book, like I kind of need to maybe pick that up. And so now you’ve completely sold me.
Noah: You absolutely should. Like I really cannot wait for book two. I haven’t read the prequal and I need to read the prequel. But I’m doing this thing for 2022 where I’ve become kind of a slow reader because it’s hard for me to read and write at the same time, because then I will confuse myself. Because it just has been a very challenging three years.
So, I’m trying to read at least a book a month and I’m reading a bit of m/m romance and a bit of stuff outside of the genre, because I like to diversify. I think it’s important to do that. Whether it’s like to feed my own creative fire or just because it’s something that I’ve been needing to read for a while that I haven’t yet.
And so, one of those books was Marie Brennan writing, I think it was called “The Night Parade of 100 Demons.” It’s a “Legend of the Five Rings” novel, trad pub. And it’s not. I don’t think that I would call it a romance because I don’t know if that I would have called that ending quite happy. But it’s got queer leads. It’s got magic. It’s got demons. It’s got a whole supernatural mystery. And I had a lot of fun with that one. It was a bit of a slow start for me. And then I found myself crying on my couch at three o’clock in the morning, finishing the book like last week. And I was like, well, I guess I really liked it then.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s a pretty good sign if you stayed up late and you cried.
Noah: Yeah. Yeah. I mean I cry at everything, so that’s not really a surprise, but it was nice to be able to do that for a book.
Jeff: What can you share about your 2022 plans?
Noah: Ooh. Okay. So, I know I teased a little bit about this little, small-town world. But genuinely, like if I was going to give you four words to discuss 2022, it’s going to be so many small towns. Like that’s, that’s what I’m excited about right now.
I don’t know what it was about writing “Catch Me If I Fall” that really like cemented this idea in my head, but the series that I’m working on now I think that as of… This is Valentine’s Day everyone is hearing this. So, two weeks before you’re all hearing this, I finished the outline for a brand-new series starter, book one in a small college town series set on the other side of Canada. It’s a little college town nestled among the pine trees in British Columbia.
It’s going to be a new adult series that I’m hoping to get at least the first two books out over the course of this year. I struggled with release dates because depression is hard. But it’s, it’s exciting for me to like, think about the fact that I’m going to be taking you all to like a little old estate turned college campus where photography major Clark and poet Leo are going to realize exactly what they mean to each other in that spring semester.
The series does not have a name. The book might have a name that I’m workshopping. The characters have names because I already scrapped 11,000 words of them to start over.
Jeff: Wow, that’s hurtful, but it has to happen sometimes.
Noah: It has to happen. And the words they’re never gone. I think every author I know has like a little document graveyard where we just ruthlessly cannibalize things that will work for other projects.
And like, that’s fine. You can’t spell necromancy without romance, you know? We’ve only got little things in our little document graveyard that are just going to rise from the dead and make perfect sense for other projects and we’ll know what they were originally intended for. And maybe we’ll share with you too. I don’t know. But I’m excited about this. I’m excited about this whole expanded Noah Steele cinematic universe of small towns.
We might be doing a little bit of series hopping for the first time. I don’t know if it’s going to be one continuous series or if I’m going to want to jump from town to town just to keep things fresh for myself. But I can tell you that I have, not a world map, but like there are four towns pretty solid in my mind.
This one that I’m working on now, the British Columbia college town one, is going to be the, I think the only new adult series of the bunch. And I’m just really excited to play with a bunch of different tropes that I either haven’t like done much with before. I only really know that I’m like having written a soap opera-esque insta-love series, insta-love is like taking a big backseat. Like we’re, we’re putting her on the shelf. She is like a porcelain doll who might be a little haunted. We’re just going to leave her there.
Jeff: Plenty of other tropes to play with.
Noah: So many, like I’m a big fan of friends to lovers right now. So, I think that we’ll probably be seeing a lot of that from me. There’s just something really special about that connection that it already exists, that isn’t romantic until oops it is. I don’t really want to do more
Jeff: Friends to lovers, second chance romance for the same reason. It’s like so much backstory, there’s some reason large or small that couldn’t click before. Let’s see what happens now. I could read friends to lovers and second chance.
Noah: All day every day. I don’t know if I’m there with you on second chance. I had a lot of fun writing it, but I also think that it was maybe like the most challenging tropes that I’ve written, because I really needed them to deserve that second chance.
And it is scary to be sitting there writing it with that little voice in the back of your mind constantly, just saying, what if it’s not heavy enough? How do you do second chance but keep it low angst and melodramatic. And I don’t know, but I think that I did it. So, I’m going to call it
Jeff: Somehow you did it. Cause usually there can be, as you noted, the angst, and they had, you know, without giving too much away, their break in the past is not insignificant. That’s not a minor thing that goes on there.
Noah: The cause for it was heavy and the time that they spent apart with heavy, I just, I couldn’t bring the entire weight of that heaviness onto the page in the present. And I, I really wanted this book to be about them in the present.
Jeff: Yeah. And that’s why for me the perfect second chance. Cause I like, second chance, but especially the headspace I’m in right now, I don’t need the angst that sometimes go with it.
Noah: Yeah. I’m also a big mood reader, right? So, like there’s, there’s definitely a time and a place for an angsty book where I just want to sit down and like give myself the several hours to ugly cry and just let it happen. And it’s fine. And I love that because it’s, it’s such a good release.
Jeff: Just keep building small towns and just keep putting gazebos in all of them.
Noah: I have no idea how long this idea will consume me for, and I have no idea if one of these towns will be hiding a supernatural secret sometime, just segue myself into new things that I can play around with. I only know that I’m really having fun with it right now. And if I’m having fun, I think you’re all going to have fun.
Jeff: Perfect. How could people keep up with you online to know what all this stuff finally comes out?
Noah: Oh my gosh, I live on the internet, so it’s probably not going to be that hard. I think honestly, the easiest thing to do that is also going to sound like an absolute plug is just subscribe to my newsletter. Because I’m chatty, I’m a very transparent, chatty person. I just like to talk about things. So, if you pop on over to noahsteele.com, like you can go ahead and subscribe to my newsletter. I send like once a month, you’ll get “Whispers of Love” the “Cut to the Feeling” prequel as soon as you sign up if you didn’t pick it up during the Winter Wonderland giveaway in 2021.
And if you’re not a newsletter person, join my Facebook group. We are Noah’s Dream Hive on Facebook, me and my honeybees like to hang out and talk about books and men and sometimes inappropriate things. And then just a lot of stuff that we really love to read in romance.
I do exist on Twitter and Instagram. I’m @BooksbyNoah, but I don’t do a lot of book talk there. It’s really just like, if you want to see pictures of my face and like, watch me tweet about smutty art and video games. Like we can hang out. It’s fine.
Jeff: We’ll link to all of those places plus all the books that we talked about in the show notes for this episode. Noah, I’m so glad you came on and talk to us about this just amazing “Catch Me If I Fall,” and I can’t wait to read your other small towns too.
Noah: I am honestly, I’m still so thrilled that you are so thrilled about Jasper and Cole’s relationship, and I will never be able to thank you enough for all of the outpouring of love and support you’ve given those two. And I’m excited that you’re excited for more because that’s all I ever really want is for people to be excited for more.
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. 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 Noah for hanging out with me and telling us about “Catch Me If I Fall” as well as what he’s working on next. I really cannot wait for the small-town romances that he’s working on. Just like second chances, I am down with reading about queer friendly, small towns anytime you want to give it to me.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up in episode 363, it’s time for this month’s “Dante’s Cove” recap as we focus on the second dramatic episode of season one.
Jeff: And believe it or not, season one only consisted of two, 90-minute episodes. So, we’re already at the end of that super sexy first season. Don’t miss our recap next week.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kind of stories that we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.