It’s a super-sized episode this week! Ariella Zoelle joins joins us to talk about her Sunnyside universe, which expands again in April as she begins the Harmony of Hearts series. The first book in that series, Play by Heart, tells the story of rock star Iason and museum curator Orion. It’s a bi-awakening story that took Ariella 17 years to complete.
Ariella also discusses how she wrote her first three books long hand on sticky notes, what ultimately turned her into a fan of romance, and the tasty way she gets to celebrate each new release. Of course, we also find out more about Sunnyside, and the books still to come this year (including a foray into fantasy).
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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.
- Ariella Zoelle Interview
- Ariella Zoelle website | Ariella Zoelle’s Sunnyside Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram | Ko-fi
- Gaycation in Paradise by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Play by Heart by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Picture Love by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Good Bad Idea series by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Suite Dreams series by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Flawsome Explorations by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Borrowing Blue by Lucy Lennox on Amazon
- Made Marian series by Lucy Lennox on Amazon
- Forever Wilde series by Lucy Lennox on Amazon
- Confessions: Robbie by Ella Frank on Amazon
- Amiee Nicole Walker on Amazon
- Riley Hart on Amazon
- A.F. Zoelle on Amazon
- Cate Ashwood Design
- Honeymoon Ever After by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Picture Love by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Harmony of Hearts series by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Make Music Together by Areilla Zoelle on Amazon
- Phantom clip featuring Daimon (subtitled in English) on YouTube
- Alluring Attraction by A.F. Zoelle on Amazon
- Melon pan information on Wikipedia
- Mini chocolate cream pan on exblog.jp (in Japanese)
- Pīnattsu sandoitchi (peanut sandwich) on Katemita.com (in Japanese)
- Osaka Conrad room tour on YouTube
- GayRomLit website
- Love at Fourth Sight by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Snowbody Like You by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Natasha Snow Designs
- Embracing Euphoria by A.F. Zoelle on Amazon
- Hudson’s Luck by Lucy Lennox on Amazon
- Love Means More by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Fancy Love by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon
- Thick as Thieves by Lucy Lennox on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Coming up on this episode, Ariella Zoelle joins us to talk about her upcoming book, which was 17 years in the making.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 366 or the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance. I’m Jeff, and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Will
Will: Hello rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show.
Jeff: And we’re going to get right into the interview this week because my conversation with Ariella Zoelle was so much fun. We kick off talking about something that I had to get more details on, which is how she wrote her first three books by writing long hand on Post-it Notes. That just blew my mind because frankly, I can’t even write neat enough to deal with Post-it Notes.
Will: Yes, I can verify that.
Jeff: But you love post-it notes. I can see you…
Will: I love them. I live for Post-it Notes. They are everywhere all over my desk and my computer. Jeff can vouch for that as well.
Jeff: It’s a very colorful square universe got in there let me tell you.
Anyway, from talking about Post-it Notes, we get into talking about the upcoming book, “Play by Heart,” which is the first time that she wrote an m/m romance, and it’s also a story that she held on to until she felt she could do the story justice. We discuss a lot more too, including her “Suite Dreams” series and the very tasty way that she celebrates each new release.
Ariella Zoelle Interview
Jeff: Ariella, welcome to the podcast. It is so awesome to have you here.
Ariella: Thank you, it’s so great to be here.
Jeff: You gave me such a nice dose of getaway, when I read “Gaycation in Paradise,” which we will definitely be talking about later. We’re gonna talk about your new book too, that’s coming in April.
But before we get to any of that, I really have to talk to you about how you’ve written some of your very first books, because Lucy Lennox clued me into this on Facebook that you were writing on one inch by one and a half inch sticky notes, while working a day job. How on earth did that come about?
Ariella: So that actually has a long history that goes back all the way to 2008 when I graduated college, and, my first job was working for a chiropractor as a receptionist. I didn’t have a lot to do when it was like he was back there with a patient. So I had a three inch by three inch memo cube. So I would write my fan fiction on that. And I got very into the habit of sneak writing on notes when there was downtime where I couldn’t do any work. And we had a very slow office, so there was a lot of it.
But fast forward to being at the law firm, the reason it got switched to one inch by one and a half is the attorney in charge of the purse strings said you can’t have three inch by three inch. You write one phone number on it, you throw it away. That’s a waste. So only one inch by one and a half inch Post-it Notes. So I said, “okay, if you’re going to make me use these tiny little ones, I’m going to use a million of them.”
So I came back to the law firm at the tail end of 2020 after having to leave my PhD program. Things happen where somebody will call in and be like, I’m not getting off this phone until the attorney’s off the phone. Great. I’ll put you on hold. And I would sneak a couple of notes in while I’m waiting for them to get off the phone. Or the printer, I need to print something to do the next part of my job. And somebody printed out 3000 pages of medical records. And I can’t do my job until that’s over. So great time to sneak in some notes. So it just kind of became a thing.
And then I wrote whole books on it. I actually have them. I keep them in a binder. And I have this tiny microscopic writing we’re going to come home, put them all on a sheet of paper and I would double-side it. And I just wrote whole books this way. I’ve written I think, three entirely, on notes.
Jeff: My gosh.
Ariella: So this is actually “Picture Love” from my “Good Bad Idea” series. It was on 849 sticky notes. I did a giveaway in my Facebook group where I said, “Hey, guess how many notes this book was written on?” And whoever got the closest, got a free paperback that I mailed them.
Jeff: It’s a whole different take on the, “how many jelly beans are in this jar.”
Ariella: Right! I was kind of what I was aiming for. So yeah, the guesses is all we’re really lowbal. “Maybe 200.” I’m like, “let’s get closer to a thousand.”
Jeff: How many words was that book to put in perspective of how many Post-it notes, 849 I think you said that was.
Jeff: How many words was that book?
Ariella: So 849. I think “Picture Love” was probably about 63,000 words. I have very tiny handwriting as you saw.
Jeff: And very neat handwriting too. Like this would never work for me cause I’d never be able to read what I wrote later.
Ariella: I actually have different handwriting styles depending on what pen I write with.
I actually collect fountain pens, and normally I use a cursive italic nib so I have this beautiful, very calligraphy flowing handwriting, but that doesn’t work when you’re trying to sneak write on sticky notes under your hands so no one notices. And so I have to write in my architect handwriting, which isn’t all caps, very tiny, even letters, and that was the only way I could make those notes work.
Jeff: And it sounded like you would write the entire book on Post-it notes. So, I mean, to that end, did you have post-it notes at home? Like did you ever work out at, at home? So instead of just what you were doing at the office, so you just write on more Post-its.
Ariella: Yeah. So what I would do is I would write these sticky notes at the day job. If it was like a super busy day, maybe I’d only get in 30 to 50 notes. If it was a day where we were allowed to play, I could get over a hundred. If there wasn’t a lot to do that day, but it was busy office or there usually didn’t have many of those days. It was pretty much just like the day before Easter. So I would come home and then I would put them all on a page and then I would transcribe them and actually type them up into Scrivener, and I would just do that every night when I would come home from work. And usually I would get about 1,500 to 3,500 words a day in that way.
Jeff: That’s a great daily word count.
Ariella: Yeah. You know, I kept up with my work. Like I wasn’t doing it to the detriment of the company. They had no idea what was happening, and the funniest part is the lady who sat next to me, who I was really good friends with, she would tell me all the time, “You were such a good storyteller. You should totally write a book someday. I bet people would love it.” And I’m over there just going, lady you have no idea. So I told her when I left the law firm and her and my assistant both basically died of shock and thought it was the funniest thing ever. So it was a lot of fun.
Jeff: I just absolutely love that. A great way to get through the Workday.
Ariella: Yes. it kept me sane.
Jeff: And get that word count in.
Jeff: As you’re doing the Post-it notes, does that make you, I’m guessing you’re probably a pantser or at least you were at the time, just to kind of keep the story flowing. Or did you keep like a, an outline somewhere else to reference.
Ariella: Yeah. So I actually had in Scrivener, I would have just a bare bones idea of where I was going, but my outline would be, North conversation. It would just be little short things where I had, you know, a rough idea of where I was heading because I was working full time at the law firm. I was working part-time as a coach for author ad school, which I still do. And I put out nine books last year.
So that’s a lot. So I kind of had to know, where am I going? Is this worth my time? But within that, I had the freedom of being kind of a pantser and just letting it run free. So it’s a little bit of a mix of both. Just vague guard rails, and then go buck wild in the middle.
Jeff: And that’s so is where the fun is to, right?
Ariella: Exactly. Yeah. I just, with certain characters like North and Wren, Felix, and my upcoming Noctis, I never know what’s going to come out of their mouths and I cannot tell you how many times when I was blew my cover, laughing at their antics in the office. Like I’m just having to sit there being like, please don’t laugh out loud. But if I’m making myself laugh, that’s usually a good sign other people are going to crack up. So it was like, okay, just try to keep your chill. So no one knows what you’re doing over here.
Jeff: So this really ties to your history of being a storyteller, because you were doing these at the time three by three, which sounds like such a luxury compared to one by one and a half. You’ve got this history then of creating story. And it really connects also to “Play By Heart,” which is coming out on April 22nd, because you’ve carried that story with you for 17 years.
Ariella: Yup, sense April 2005.
Jeff: Take us back to what got you started as a storyteller and then why “Play By Heart” is something you’ve held on for so long.
Ariella: It has a little bit of a sad origin story in the beginning. I had been with somebody who helped train me as a writer when I was young in my teenage years. And we had been a couple and when we split up, it was kind of like, well, if he’s not here to read my stuff, why am I writing? Cause I was young and just caught up in my feels. And so I had sworn off of writing. At the time I was so judgmental and so hypercritical, I edited, it was a death by a thousand cuts.
I hated everything I wrote. And part of that was because I had been trained to be hypercritical of myself. And so in 2005, I was very sick, unfortunately. I was an undergrad at NYU and I just was having a lot of health problems. So had terrible insomnia. Woke up one day, went to my computer and I had a word document. I had 15,000 words in it. I went “who, who wrote this?” I live alone at that point. So I was like, where does this come from? And I started reading it and I had never written romance and I had never written anything m/m before, but I really liked Japanese yaoi, BL all of that kind of stuff. I was really immersed in that culture since as it was part of what I was studying at university.
So I was like, “Wait, wait, what is this?” And it was about this guy named Iason and I was like, “Wow. What’s his story?” And it was the first thing I had ever read that I had written that I really liked. And I was just so blown away by the richness of this character. And I was like, “Wait, where did this come from?” Like, it was so deep in my heart, it just clawed its way out and it had to wait I was really sick to do it. So I just kind of sat on it. Cause I was like, I don’t remember writing it. I don’t remember what I was going to do with it. And every so many months, the story kind of would pop up and go, “Hey, remember me?” And I read that 15,000 words and be like, “Where was I going with this?” It’s so good. And I get so mad at myself for not finishing it.
So it took until 2018, like an embarrassingly long time, before a friend of mine went, who cares, what 2005 you would do with it? What is 2018 you going to do with it? And it was like something unlocked in my brain. And I was like, oh, I can take this anywhere. But in 2018, I still thought stories had to have a heavy angst component for people to read it. I thought you had to have that last minute breakup. I was trying to put it in there. The story ballooned out to 94,000 words, I still had 14 chapters to go.
And at the time I was in my PhD program, working six jobs. I didn’t have time to clean it up and figure out why is this not working. And so I knew it was good, but it just wasn’t jelling for some reason. And then when I was working on “Suite Dreams,” Iason pops up in “Flawsome Explorations” at the epilogue. He just kind of just moseyed right on in there. And I was like, “Oh, okay. So we’re doing this now.”
After that it was like, wait a minute, I wrote it originally. It was set in Princeton, New York City, Philadelphia area, because that’s where I live at the time. And I was wait a minute, he very much is part of my Sunnyside universe. But to be part of my Sunnyside universe, it is a low slash no angst world. And I realized that’s what this story was missing. I was trying to force in a breakup. The sister finds out. Her older, brother’s dating her idol, and they get into a fight. And then there’s a breakup. Awful. Like it’s just so unnecessary. Their communication was so good. It didn’t make sense that there was a breakdown in it for such an arbitrary, artificial, outside reason.
So I stripped all of that out. I got rid of the mean ex girlfriend. Like I just kind of reshaped it and just let them be happy because that’s really the point I’m at in my life right now. That over writing my Sunnyside universe, I want to write to put some good out in the world, like the world’s really dark right now.
So, one of the best reviews I ever got is they said my books felt like a warm hug from a good friend. And that’s what I really want my work to be. So I thought, you know what? Iason, he has been waiting 17 years to finally see the light of day. And he had to wait for me to become a good enough writer to tell his story the way it was meant to be told. And I think it’s one of my strongest works because he had to wait so long. So him and Orion had an amazing romance that is just allowed to be happy. And it’s just so nice to finally be able to give that to them. It’s been a long journey, so I’m really happy about how it turned out.
Jeff: Looking back on those original 15,000 words. How much of, at least the crux of the story made it through to the 2022 verison.
Ariella: Actually more than you would think. The 15,000 word version started off in the basement of the bar, where at the time the character’s name was Chris, but I like having some more unique names. I’m a little bit known for it. So Chris became Orion. And, he went down to the basement to get some CDs for the street team that his sister was part of. And he runs into Iason in the basement. And that actually is still in the story. I started it a few steps before that, but it’s the core of that meeting is still very much true to the original, Iason going home and meeting Orion’s awesome family. All of that made it into the 2022 version. So those components stayed.
The biggest things that got taken out is because, it is a bi-awakening story chris/Orion had a really mean girlfriend. It didn’t sit well with me, and I realized that their breakup didn’t have to be there.
Whereas the old girlfriend was really just this mean awful, just like a caricature of awful girlfriend. She became Nyla. And Nyla and Rion, they are exes, but they partied on amicable terms because it was one of those. They just, they wanted different things. They grew apart, but they’re still friends. And so they’re still really supportive of each other. And to me, I think that makes it much more engaging relationship to see kind of how they’re still helping each other in their own way. So that part definitely is one of the biggest changes.
Jeff: Yeah, we’ll, we’ll talk more about “Play By Heart” in a few minutes, because I do want to talk a little bit more about your history, but I will say before we move on from Nyla, as we’re sitting here at the end of February as we talk, I’ve read about 30%. So I’ve met Nyla, and I adore her. And I actually want her story as well, cause she’s got a story there that, readers will see bits and pieces of, and I would love to see that someday as well. Cause I think there’s interesting things going on over there.
You mentioned you hadn’t written romance at all before. You’d read a little bit, at least in yoai and in BL. Was there other romance, like in what you were taking in either through books or media that you were thinking about it or did this story just kind of pop out and then kind of open up the world of romance for you?
Ariella: Yeah. So 2005 me, she, she was in a, in a rough spot. She had some issues going on to be polite about it. And, you know, she was cynical and she hated Hallmark and she didn’t think true love was real. And you know, her first true love had basically shattered her heart in very dramatic fashion. So she was very anti love in 2005. While I liked, yoai, and that kind of stuff, like I would rather just shoot myself out of a cannon into the sun then watch a Hallmark movie back then.
Now me love it. My books were basically Hallmark, but gay and steamy. That’s kind of my brand at this point. And so, you know, 2005 me just was so anti that, which is why when I read Iason and I saw this like really just intensely passionate, kind of romance that just develops, this is intense, like insta love. It was just like, where did this come from? And I think it was just that part of me deep in my heart that wanted that, and was drawn to that. I had to learn how to let myself kind of fall in love with love again, and I resisted for about two years.
I just was like, man, I don’t know, it’s it’s romance. I’ve never read a romance novel in my life. I had bad attitudes toward it just because of popular culture, kind of ingraining that in us. And in 2007, I just, I had this story about these two characters from a Japanese show and they would not leave me alone.
And my friend went, “So write it, if you don’t finish it, who cares?” That’s true. It takes the pressure off. And so I had to start writing this fanfic and as I was writing it, it was a romance and people liked it. And I didn’t hate it. So because I was posting it as I was writing it, I didn’t have time to edit it to death.
And so because of that, it had more of a genuineness to it. It wasn’t so, militant in its editing. And I learned how to fall in love with people falling in love. And after that, I just became like a hopeless romantic, started watching Hallmark with my mom and, you know, it was just from there. It eventually grew into, well, I’ve been writing fan fiction for 10 years. I have stories that, you know, are original. Let me start telling those. And that’s how I kind of made the shift into self-publishing.
Jeff: As you made that shift from fan fiction and starting to watch Hallmark, what did you do to essentially like figure out the craft behind a romance novel? Because, of course, there’s the beats that the readers expect and the kind of format that the readers expect. How did you start building that up in your brain so that when you started writing the longer work that it would fit together.
Ariella: Yeah, actually this is going to sound really funny. I didn’t know that m/m romance in English existed.
Jeff: It’s okay, you’re not the first that we’ve heard that from.
Ariella: I just thought it was, the realm of fan fiction, you have slash fan fiction. Like that was the world I lived in through Japanese media. I never really thought, like, “Wait, what about an English with, you know, American people in it? Is that a thing?” So when I finally started going, “You know what, I think I want to transition into self publishing.” I started to do my research. I’m an academic. I was in academia for almost 20 years in higher education.
So my first book was actually Lucy Lennox, “Borrowing Blue,” because it was the one I saw everywhere. I read it and I went, “Whoa, wait, this is awesome.” So I blew through her entire “Made Marian” series, went through all the “Forever Wilde,” like just marathoned that. And after that I went, okay, that was good. And what next?
And I saw Ella Frank’s cover for “Robbie” and I was in love with that cover. I was like, well, I got to read it. And it was m/m/m, which I love. So I was like, great, let me do that. And once I read hers, I went, “Hey, I think there’s actually a place in the market where, I might fit somewhere between these two.”
And I just kept reading, you know, all of the really big names in the genre, like Amiee Nicole Walker and Riley Hart, all of the, you know, the greats. And I went, I think I can do this.
And so my first series, I learned some lessons of what not to do and, a lot of lessons of what not to do, actually. And so I made a break between being A.F. Zoelle, who does darker stuff and Ariella Zoelle, who is just, high heat and humor and heart. Like that is what I love. So it was definitely good to do my research.
Jeff: Do you still write as A.F or are you all about the, the humor and light now?
Ariella: So I have plans at some point. I’m going to relaunch my first trilogy. I think it needs a little bit of work. Or just new covers for it that are just really I think people are going to respond to. So someday I’m going to kind of do that. It’s on my list of things to do this year.
But right now my main focus is Ariella, just because it’s so much fun to do things that don’t have that heavy angst component. And I think in some ways it is more challenging to craft this world where you have to rely on the strengths and interests of the characters. You know, if your characters aren’t people who feel real, the no agnst element, people get bored.
So I think it really takes a lot of kraft to be able to support them with a story that doesn’t rely on those, ” Ooh, there was a car accident. Ooh, there’s a break up.” Like those kinds of normal things that we see in that sort of stuff.
Jeff: You’ve mentioned covers a couple of times, and I have to ask this question about your covers, to know how this kind of started. The O in Zoelle becomes so many different things across your covers, which I think is so wonderful and just a cute little bit to your brand. How did that start?
Ariella: So I’m very extra. So for A.F., the reason it was A.F. Zoelle is because I had a friend who’s said were so extra A.F. about everything. Said in a loving way. And I was like, she’s absolutely right, because one’s good, a hundreds better.
So, when I was trying to come up with the branding of the Sunnyside universe. You can’t have a Sunnyside universe logo and then a series logo. That’s too much. I wanted something to kind of unify, where at a glance you could tell all of these are part of the same universe without it actually being a logo. So I thought, how cute would it be to substitute out the O in my name for something that’s related to the story. So in “Fancy Love,” for example, Callum loves desserts and Rune cooks and bakes, and that’s a real core element of their story. So I have this cute little cake dessert as the O and my name. So they all tie in. And for me having that across my “Good Bad Idea,” my “Suite Dreams” series, “Play By Heart,” all of those logos, in a sense, become a logo that unifies. If this is in here, it’s Sunnyside. So it’s kind of the marker for that.
Jeff: I love it. it’s adorable, and I loved how you’re using it as the series logo too. It makes complete sense. So kudos to you on the marketing and branding side. I think that’s awesome.
Ariella: Yeah, and Cate Ashwood has done an amazing job with the cover. She’s very patient with me as I’m like, what about this cute little thing? Or should we try this cute little thing? Like, she’s very patient with me. I just think it’s a cute little thing. And my readers get so excited. Like before we even do the cover reveal, they’re like, “What’s the O going to be?” So I think it’s nice that they get excited about that. Cause I just love little stuff like that.
Jeff: Let’s talk more about “Play By Heart.” As we mentioned it comes out April 22nd. So it’s a little bit down the line still about a month away. Tell everybody a little bit more about Iason and Orion.
Ariella: Yeah, so it’s one of those, if you have read “Suite Dream” series, which is not required, we see Iason pop-up. We see him in “Flawsome Explorations” where he’s at a photo shoot, and he’s kind of joking about the fact that he’s a singer songwriter. He’s famous for his love songs, but he’s never been in love. And so it’s just kind of there.
And when you get to “Gaycation in Paradise,” which is where you first met him, he’s, you know, kind of talking about his dissatisfaction with life on the road. And, Rook starts kind of telling them like, “Hey, I met somebody, maybe now you might.”
And when we get into “Honeymoon Ever After” Kieran starts telling him, you know, you’re going to go to this open mic night at your friend’s bar, like you’re going to meet somebody. I’m going to wish this on the Northern stars. Cause he’s in Sweden at this time. He was like, we’re wishing on this Northern lights. It has to happen. Like you have too many people pulling for you.
And so Iason just makes kind of a one-off comment. Like the only way I’m going to believe the cosmic universe sent me. Mr. Perfect. He needs to have a cosmic name. So if he shows up with a name like Cosmo, I’ll believe it, but if not, I’m not here for that. So he’s kind of got this like doubt built in.
And so when he sees Orion across the room at this open mic night, he’s just enamored with him just from a far. And so when they do have that encounter in the basement, when Orion goes down to get CDs for his sister. And he says like, what’s your name? Because he needs to know like, is it just going to be Jim? Like, what’s your name? And so he says, you know, my name’s Orion Donati. And he goes, you’re, you’re literally made out of the wishes on stars.
And so after that, Iason is just full tilt, head over heels. Orion needs a little bit more convincing, but he still feels that pull to Iason where, you know, he’s straight, but he just can’t deny that there’s something between them. I think it’s a credit to Orion, that he is very open-minded and he’s like, you know, I wouldn’t be feeling these things if there weren’t something here.
So I think that, you know, he’s a shy assistant museum curator. That grew out of the fact art history was like my first big academic love. And so getting to kind of put in these bits of me in the art history, and I’ve done it in previous characters, like Bruen with his interest in the French revolution. I can have a PhD in the French revolution, and what I know about it.
Thankfully my readers are very good at indulging like my little weird interests kind of popping in here and there. So for Orion, you know, getting to share my love of art history and letting him kind of nerd out about certain art pieces that remind him of his relationship with Iason, I think is what makes it really unique because not a lot of people are going, “Hey, here’s this ancient Roman statue.” I can make it relevant.
Jeff: Yeah. That is a trick to connect those pieces.
That’s one of the things that I love so far about the book is that you’ve got this musician who’s very self-confident who manages to kind of push his way into this person’s life who has, you know, is, is not famous and doesn’t know fame. And yet make it seem so organic that he’s just really pursuing this guy that he likes. And it doesn’t tip over into like creepy stalkery or anything like that. Did you find that to be an interesting balance to keep so that it didn’t seem like Iason was coming on too strong?
Ariella: Yeah, it was definitely a fine balancing act. I think the original version came on just a wee bit too strong with the slamming up against the wall and up against the wall.
Because in Japanese you have the kabedon where you do the hand against the wall, the pin him and I was very much in that mode. So I backed off of that a little bit, but I think it’s one of those he’s trying to be respectful. He’s trying not to go too fast because he knows “I already came on too strong at the bar. Like I need to slow my roll.” So he’s at least aware and he’s trying to become friends with him before things kind of step up, which is why they get to know each other on this really cute date.
And, they start bonding over that kind of stuff. And then, you know, it’s sort of organically just kind of takes its own shape. And so I think that it’s important that Orion doesn’t feel too overwhelmed by it because he’s just so innately drawn to Iason. It’s not just because he’s a fan. He’s just like this person just lights me up inside. I don’t know why, but you know what? I don’t want to be scared anymore. I’m just gonna embrace this and see where we go.
Jeff: Yeah, it makes it an interesting bi-awakening story because he is so, as you put it, lit up by Iason and his looks, his music, his demeanor, the whole package, just clicks in that moment at the show, which is just so wonderful to watch manifest itself.
Ariella: Yeah. And I think another really important element is when Orion takes him, home for family dinner.
Jeff: That’s a huge deal.
Ariella: Yeah. It’s a big deal, especially when you’ve only known each other, like two, three days. “Hi, come meet my whole family. ”
Jeff: Although mom certainly meddled in that with just a little bit.
Ariella: She did. Estelle, she has a tendency to kind of work her magic. I think when Orion sees, here’s a super world famous musician and he fits in Orion’s home and he feels like part of their family. And I think it helps remove that your star element and really makes him more human. And he’s like, you have a place in my family, you do belong here. And I think it makes it easier for Orion to start opening up after that because it’s like your family now. And I just think that’s really sweet.
Jeff: Has it been a deliberate choice through some of these books to involve celebrity so much? Cause I’m two for two now of like big star Rook and then there’s Kieran as well. Who’s a movie star in his own right. And now we’ve got, Iason here, famous photographer also moves through these books. , is that a part of your universe?
Ariella: It honestly, it just kind of coincidentally happened to line up that way. It wasn’t something I consciously did. I always knew that Rook’s story and Kieran’s were going to parallel each other just because they’re both in that scandal together. So I just wanted both of them to have their happy ending, because it would be really crummy if like Rook got his and Kieran’s just out there still, you know, being just random hookups and kind of miserable with it. And so I knew those would parallel and because they are famous, they are interacting with the famous French photographer Arsène who was in “Picture Love.”
So they kind of run in the same circles, and it just made sense that when they’re in that world, they’re friends with Iason to build that into the next series. So it was just kind of a natural link. But, Iason’s really the big one in “Harmony of Hearts,” book two is actually “Make Music Together.” It’s about his drummer Levi who has a romance with his neighbor, who he sings shower duets with, and has never met. But they ended up meeting at an open mic night and he’s like, wait, you’re my neighbor. You are very attractive.
So I think for me showing that this hugely famous people are just people, I think is kind of what keeps it from being too abnoxious. Like they’re not, you know, over the top, like they are very real people that are just, they need that kind of love that’s been missing from their lives.
And so these very grounded, real regular people kind of give them that, you know, “more” that they had been missing.
Jeff: We’ve got a couple of questions for you from members of our Patreon community. And this is a great place for the first one that comes from Sarah. And she says, this, “First Martin Mull said: ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,’ which I’d never heard but I think that’s an absolute hoot.
Ariella: It’s great! Yeah.
Jeff: Sarah says that she’s always interpreted this as, yeah, it’s hard. “I love musician protagonists and writing a song writer is a lot of layers of writing about music. What were the elements of Iason’s skill as a songwriter and lyricist that you focused on intently in the story?”
Ariella: Yes. For one thing that was really important to me was to convey his voice. And when you can’t hear him in the traditional sense, like, I can’t be like here, go play this song. It’s him, trying to convey the magic of his spellbinding voice is a challenge. And there is actually what I was studying for my PhD program was Japanese contemporary musical theater.
And there’s a company called Takarazuka Revue. And all of the people in that troup are women and they also play the male roles. And so there is this one actress, who has since retired from the company, but her name was Nozomi Fūto. And she goes by Daimon and she just has this voice. And it’s unlike anybody else’s that I have ever heard.
And I have gone to so many of her shows. And when I was working on this back in 2018, I went to see Daimon in “Phantom,” which is one of my favorite musicals and seeing my favorite person do it. I literally flew to Japan, just listen to her sing. My parents thought I lost my mind, but. Her voice has this magical ability to just fill your soul with light. And it just fills all of those cracks in your soul and makes you feel whole in a way you didn’t know you needed. And it’s this incredibly sensual, fulfilling experience. It’s just magical. Like it made me understand the phrase, take me to church. It’s like her voice gets me there, but it is just this completely visceral experience of listening to her voice fill this massive theater that fits like 5,000 people.
And I was trying to kind of use that as an inspiration to show how Iason’s voice kind of affects Orion because it’s really this immense voice that just does things to him. And so trying to convey that, either people are going to get it, or they’re going to think I’m nuts. It’s one or the other. Like, I don’t know what this way it’s going to go, but I’m hoping they like it.
Jeff: If you’ve got into YouTube clips, you want to share to us, we can put those in the show notes too so maybe people can sample a little bit of this singer.
Ariella: I actually have a translated clip that my dear friend actually translated for me so I can share it Daimon plays the Phantom and her partner is Maaya Kiho, who goes by Kii-Chan she actually plays Christine. And it’s not Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version. It’s just “Phantom.” So it’s the same story but the songs are different, but Daimon’s voice just has this richness to it that even on recording, it’ll still blow you away. But in person, it is just, it fills your entire soul. Like, I just cannot describe it. But like when I would finish one of her shows, like I could not get up, I just had to sit there and just feel. It was amazing. Like I miss that kind of experience from living over there and her being apart of the company still.
Jeff: Oh yeah, send that clip over please, cause I would like to see it and I’m sure some of our listeners here would like to see that as well.
You wrote song lyrics in this book too.
Ariella: I did
Jeff: Did that come naturally to you? Or was that like, cause to me that’s like poetry and like poetry just makes my head explode in terms of like what it takes to be able to do that.
Ariella: I thought I was really going to struggle with the song lyrics and I thought I was going to agonize over them. They just sort of came out like they were just sort of there and it was very weird to me. And so I spent a lot of time being like, are these a little too cheesy? Are they? But for me, that’s kind of Iason like it’s so over the top, because he hasn’t actually been in love. So he is building these song lyrics off of what he’s seen in media and what he has heard in other songs. And so it’s almost like this overly bombastic version. And I think that’s why it kind of connected with people. And so once he’s actually fallen in love with Orion, I hope you can see a shift in the genuineness of his song lyrics that are actually directed to Orion. I think you can see that kind of progression where they become more personal, because it’s finally real for him. So I try to convey that.
Jeff: The lyrics were awesome. I’d love to hear them set to music. If you ever like commission somebody to write the music side of that.
Ariella: Yeah, my big dream is someday to be able to do audio books and I would love to have my narrator sing those songs. Like I can hear him in my head, so I would love to find a way to make that happen.
Jeff: What was your favorite scene to write in “Play By Heart?”
Ariella: Yeah, for me, the scenes where the family are together, I think really have a kind of magic where they all just fit together so neatly, and, you know, Estelle is just an awesome mom and Neil is just, the perfect dad and I’m very lucky that, you know, I have fantastic parents. So it was very easy to model this family off of.
And even the little sister, like she’s so sweet. She’s so over the top. And I think her journey in the book is really going to surprise people because, the original version went very differently then this version. And I’m really glad she gets to kind of be her own little hero in her story.
And I think that the side characters like that, they usually tend to kind of fall by the wayside. So I like being able to have these female characters, especially that people love like West in, “Love Directions.” Like people want to be her best friend.
Jeff: Has your dad baked the dessert for “Play By Heart” yet? Or does that happen closer to the release date?
Ariella: Yeah, so it actually happens on a release day. He will make some kind of dessert. He doesn’t tell me what he’s making. It’s just, he’ll bring it out. He’ll be like, “Hi, I made a Hokkaido Milk Cream Cake.” And I’m like, “what? I didn’t even know you knew what that was.” So, you know, he’s, he makes all different kinds of things. And interestingly, a lot of them are actually sugar-free because he is diabetic now. And so he still wants to eat them. So he has managed to make, actual cake that tastes amazing. Like I don’t miss regular cake because his sugar-free ones are so good. Like it’s magic. I don’t know how he does it.
Jeff: How did that tradition begin? Cause I think it’s always nice to have people that support you, especially when it’s your family, but this is like next level to go and make, not just cake, but like things you would get on like, you know, “British Bake Off” or something.
Ariella: Yeah. He’s definitely, taking things up a notch, especially over these last couple of books. Where that starts is he used to stress bake when he worked in corporate. And, you know, if I came home and there were three dozen cookies, I knew, you know, hard day at the office. And so once I started publishing, like, bless my father, he just, he’s always so supportive.
So when my first book came out, “Alluring Attraction,” it’s about a brothel. And so there’s a lot of scenes that you would expect to see in a brothel and bless my father. He read that book and I kept telling him Dad you don’t have to do this. You do not have to read it, like it is so not your book. Like my dad is straight. You don’t have to do this to yourself. And his response was I got all kinds of an education and I’m like, I’m sure you did.
So after that, I had been away at my PhD program. And so once I kind of had to move home after leaving the program, he just started making me a dessert to celebrate my releases because he’s just so proud that I am publishing and doing all of it on my own. Like I’m doing my own layout and all that kind of stuff. And so he just like showing his support and in my family food is how we do that. And desserts is, you know, the best I love you in the world. So it just became a thing, and I started sharing it with my readers and my readers now we’re like, “Great, you have a book coming out. What’s your dad making?”
So I made a little bakery logo for him on my website. I have a secret page for people who join my newsletter, where you can actually go to like my dad’s bakery section. I have pictures of everything he’s made for each of my books. And for Christmas, I got him an apron and I had the logo put on it that I designed for him. So now he wears it when he fakes and it’s so cute.
Jeff: I love that. Way to go, dad. It’s always great to hear those support stories like that. So now, you know,
Ariella: Well you know he has his own fans! Which is amazing.
Jeff: Of course! We should give him an Instagram.
Ariella: I had a reader in Australia, her name’s Kylie, and she sent me a little care package and she included cookie cutters for my dad. And I was like, my dad got fan mail. Like it’s the best thing in the world. So yeah. It’s definitely, I’m very fortunate.
Jeff: So yeah, our listeners who want to see the baked goods, cause I’ve seen them cause I’m on Ariella’s newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter because that link for that will be in the show notes so that you can see the baked goods as well. It is quite something and I’d love to come to your house for dessert.
Ariella: We would love to have you. He cooks all kinds of things. I mean, chicken Marsala, stir fry, curries. Like he runs the gamut. A lot of Italian stuff. It’s amazing. I’m not the size of a house quite honestly.
Jeff: And it’s a great moment here for another question from Sarah, since we’re talking about food, she wanted to know: “You’re feeling very snacky on a road trip. What’s your convenience store of choice and what snacks are you buying?”
Which is a big level down from dad’s treats but we’ve all got our convenience store snacks that we gravitate to for sure.
Ariella: Yeah. So I’ll, I’ll be a little bit of a nudge on this one because convenience store culture in Japan is just next level experience. And I’ve lived in Tokyo for almost seven years at this point on and off, and so for me, when I think convenience store, I think Japanese convenience store, which is 7-Eleven. Fun fact, the Japanese company is Seven and I Holdings, they own the American chain of 7-Eleven. So it’s actually a Japanese company, which not many people know. So 7-Eleven is one of my favorite over there and Lawson.
My absolute favorite things in the world from a Japanese convenience store, are Melon Pan, which is basically sugar cookie bread. It’s so good. It just has this hard, like sugar, cookie kind of a crust on it. It doesn’t taste like Melon. It’s just really sweet and just such a good pastry. They have these things that look like dinner rolls, but they have chocolate cream inside of them. Those are really tasty.
And my other to round out my top three, they have these little crustless peanut butter sandwiches that have like bits of real peanuts in them. And so they’re pīnattsu sandoitchi, which just sounds like I’m making fun of Japanese, but I swear that’s how it’s actually pronounced. And they are just this soft, just buttery sweet. Like it was just so good. Like those are the three things I really miss from Japanese life.
And the Melon Pan, they also have chocolate chip Melon Pan where it’s just all sprinkled in with chocolate chips. It’s just cannot get enough of that. It’s so good.
Jeff: And you had me with peanut butter in it, so. Anything, peanut butter makes me really happy. So good.
Now of course we have to talk about “Suite Dreams” since “Gaycation in Paradise” was my first book of yours. You’ve got me hooked on resort settings now.
Ariella: Yeah. I mean, when you look at the cover, like who would not want to go to that blue water paradise?
Jeff: Right? Absolutely. I’m all over that. How, how did this particular series come about? Cause you’ve got five books in that series, I think it is. So that’s a lot of resorts to write about.
Ariella: Yeah, so I, have been very blessed that I have traveled all through parts of Europe through Asia. I’ve definitely been very blessed to stay at some amazing hotels.
My father, when he worked in corporate, and when he has his own consulting firm. He would stay on projects where he would live down in Richmond for two years, he would go down Sunday at like two in the afternoon. He come back Friday at 11 o’clock at night. So most of the week, he just lived down in a hotel at a Hilton down in Richmond. And he did it at the Poconos for like three years.
So for a lot of time, he was just gone. And because of that, he has a gabillion Hilton hotels points. Like a gabillion. So because of that hotel stays are free and he’s a diamond member. So he gets some very nice upgrades. So anytime I’m like, “Hey dad, I’m going to go down to Osaka. Mind if I borrow some points.” And I’ll pay half and use points and it’s like, yeah, sure. Take them.
And so, because of that, I would get upgraded to these incredible suites. And hotel rooms in Japan, usually like if you do this, you’re touching both sides of a wall. Like hotel rooms in Japan are tiny. And I stayed at the Conrad, which has Hilton like five star deluxe chain. And I stayed at the one in Osaka that was just this amazing, amazing suite that the shower had a window and you’re in the 43rd floor.
Ariella: The hotel room was bigger than my bedroom. And in Japan that’s like unheard of. So it was like the height of luxury. So I liked being able to kind of bring that really lux sort of hotel into it. And my logic behind “Suite Dreams” was, you know, we’re deep into the pandemic. I love traveling and I haven’t been able to do it in many years because of the pandemic. So the last time I left the country was in 2018 to go see Daimon in “Phantom.” So I just thought it would be nice to take everyone on a vicarious vacation and get to look up these amazing hotels to kind of base my ideas off of. And it was just sort of a fun, little escape for me to do a getaway and my readers ended up really liking it too, so it was fun.
Jeff: One of our patrons, Jess was curious about what inspired the luxury suite idea. Certainly it sounds like Japan had a lot to do with that and this amazing Conrad hotel. Anything else kind of go into that. And Jess is also curious, did you take pictures of various hotels to help you build out the world?
Ariella: So I’m actually really glad that they asked that question because I do these visual guides as bonus material. Again, for my newsletter subscribers, where I shared the pictures of, you know, here’s this incredible hotel I found in the middle of nowhere, Sweden, where the hotel, you’re on like the ice and I’ll post a visual guide on my website where it’s like, here’s a picture and I’ll explain here’s why I picked it. How cool is this kind of a thing?
And I actually, for the one for “Gaycation in Paradise,” I have all of these beautiful pictures of the Maldives and this incredible over-water Villa hotel that has a video tour. So I liked being able to base these hotels in really over the top luxury to have those awesome pictures to share with my readers and just be like, who would like to go on a field trip with me?
Jeff: Well, just reading “Gaycation” I like, I need a trip to the Maldives because you capture, so well, the imagery of the place, I felt like I could, you know, not only see the room, but like the areas around when Rook actually decided to step outside a little bit and would Aldo would kind of like, “we’re going to go walk on the beach. It’s going to be late at night. Nobody’s going to see you, blah, blah, blah.” but I got the feeling of what that was like, so it was kind of like a little vacation for myself at the same time.
Ariella: That’s what I was aiming for. So I’m glad it took you there, cause it’s the Maldives, it’s just stunning, stunning place.
Unfortunately, I have actually never been. I’m very sad about it. And when I was working on that, I was getting ready to publish it. And somebody at my law firm went on their honeymoon there and I was like, I just wrote a book. Why don’t I get to go?
Jeff: And these are such great escapes. Are they escapist for you as you write them or are you too in the writing to feel the escape, the rest of us get.
Ariella: Working on them while I was sitting in my terrible toxic law firm. Yeah, definitely an escape. You know, the firm wasn’t the best place in the world, which is why I’m so grateful to my readers for supporting me to the point where I could actually leave the firm. And it really was just a way for me to kind of still, go to places without actually being there and, the pandemic, just, it makes it really hard. I have very bad lungs, so I can’t really travel. I can’t really go anywhere. Although I am excited, I’m hoping the world will be in a better place. So I am going to GRL in October. So I’m very excited for that. So hopefully the pandemic will let that go through.
So for me, it was definitely escapist to just picture these gloriously beautiful, beautiful places to sort of build a new world and in “Love at Fourth Sight” I have Wintervale. And Wintervale I have a feeling will turn into its own little spinoff series somewhere down the road. Cause it was just the people there. The locals were just so much fun. Like I think I could do some really fun things in Wintervale.
Jeff: Now you’re getting ready to do a different kind of escapism because you’re going to take a dive into m/m fantasy.
Ariella: Yes. I’m very excited about that.
Jeff: What can you tell us a little bit about that?
Ariella: So I am a huge fan of “Alice in Wonderland.” If anybody has read “Snowbody Like You,” which is book one of “Suite Dreams,” it should not come as a surprise since there is a “Alice in Wonderland” role-playing scene with a very creative set of tea cups, if I do say so myself.
When I was working on that, I have this idea for a, you know, “Alistair in Wonderland” where it’s a male Alice and it’s not actually the original Alice it’s going to “Wonderland Ever After.”
Alistair is brought there to be the new Alice. And so he kind of gets brought into Wonderland and gets to meet all of these famous characters, like Cheshire, and gets to interact with them and be part of their world. And I’m really excited cause book one will be Alistair with the white rabbits and then book two will be Cheshire and book three is Hatter.
And so I’m really excited for getting to show these characters that are so famous and popular culture and base it in the original Lewis Carroll works because obviously I can’t touch anything Disney has ever looked at. So I think it’s really, it’ll still have my same brand of heat, humor, and heart. It will be low angst.
And for me, I’ve read so many “Alice in Wonderland,” retellings, where Alice is, you know, it’s a dark gritty, everyone’s trying to murder Alice. She has to learn magic so she can defend herself. And like, I just, I want to fun “Alice in Wonderland” retelling where it’s about the whimsy of the world and the magic of the world.
And so having a low angst, “Alice in Wonderland” universe I think is going to be what makes it really unique. And so hopefully even people who are like, oh, fantasy is not my thing. You’re still gonna have the same kind of characters in my contemporary stuff be part of that world. I actually have a Ko-fi account where I posted a couple of the sample chapters that I’ve written and everybody has already decided Cheshire is their new favorite book boyfriend.
And I’m like, yeah, he’s, he’s pretty great. He’s, he’s very ambitious in a fun way. So I’m very excited to finally get that out. Hopefully sometime, maybe late summer, if all goes according to plan. So no concrete date on that one yet though. The cover by Natasha Snow is just gorgeous.
Jeff: Yeah. I will share the fact to the listeners that I’ve gotten a sneak preview of that, and oh my God it is gorgeous. It’s absolutely gorgeous. When this finally gets released for its official unveiling. People are going to go absolutely gaga for it.
Ariella: I think so. It’s just, she did such a good job and she’s actually getting ready to do cover for Cheshire’s cover next in sometime in like late April. So I’m excited to see how that turns out.
Jeff: What was it like to flex slightly different muscles from the romance muscles and to do some world building and fantasy and things like that.
Ariella: I actually have written fantasy through my fan fiction and I actually have a like nine books series about a monk and a fox demon.
And it’s this, worlds of incredible magic, but that’s just sitting on my hard drive, because it needs some work and, unfortunately all nine books follow the same three characters, which tends not to be the norm. So I think that for me getting to do fantasy when I grew up reading so much, fantasy is really kind of like a return to my roots for what I used to read.
And so getting to bring in that fantasy element, along with the romance that is like become my happy place. I think will make it a really fun adventure for everybody.
If it does go well, and everybody loves “Alistair in Wonderland” and the “Wonderland Ever After” series, then I have on deck a potential gender bent, “Wizard of Oz” retelling that’ll be based on the novels that I’m very, very excited about because I think it will have a lot of potential for some fun.
Jeff: That sounds fun. I’m even more into that than Alistair. And I’m pretty in Alistair too, because of the spin that it sounds like you’re putting on it. So yeah, hopefully everybody loves Alistair so we can get the next thing. Are there other genres or, you know, sub genres of romance that you maybe want to try that you’re, haven’t quite pulled the trigger on yet.
Ariella: Yeah. So there’s definitely some tropes that I haven’t been able to play with yet. One of them is I do love, m/m/m. I love a good menage romance. My first series as A.F. has one eventually, but it’s dark and all of that. So I don’t see a ton of lighthearted comedic m/m/m. So book seven of “Harmony of Hearts” will actually have that comedic element. At this point it’s called “Rhapsody of Three” and so we meet, Chance Prince. We meet him in “Gaycation and Paradise” on a photo shoot, and we find out he’s actually filming a movie in Sunnyside.
So in book seven, we find out that Duke who owns the bar, the Hurley Burley Bar and Grill, and Early, who owns the Brouhaha Cafe, they’re married. And we kind of open with a scene with the two of them, with Iason, Orion, and a couple of other people that you meet throughout the series. And they’re all talking about who’s your hall pass. And so for Duke and Early, their hall pass is Chance. And then he shows up and starts using their locations as a place for filming this movie about the guy who falls in love at an open mic night. And, magic happens. And I think it’s really going to be fun to have that kind of trio based on like their hall pass comes true. Like how many people get that experience?
Jeff: Right? That’s exciting that’s coming in the future
Ariella: and I have my first silver fox, “Up On Deck.” That’ll actually be booked six. So Chance’s father, we find out about Sir Prince, which like, that’s a name.
Jeff: That’s a great name.
Ariella: He put that in there and I was like, oh yes, Sir’s going to be a lot of fun. And so Sir was late, back in the day, one of those big bands that, rock stars and the rock stars of like the eighties and all of that. They have these cover bands where people like pretend to be the other band members. And so there is a cover band of Sir’s band, which is Four Princes, but they’re called the Faux Princes since it’s the cover band and his dad, Sir ends up falling in love with the guy playing him in the band whose name is Caliksto
And so that’s, that’s going to be a fun one where I’ve never seen anyone do a guy fall in love with his cover band partner. So I think the first silver fox romance, I think it’s going to be, there’s going to be a lot of sass and snark in that one. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so.
Jeff: So much good stuff on the horizon.
Ariella: Good thing I write fast.
Jeff: Switching it up to things that you’ve read recently. What are some books that you would recommend to our listeners that have really resonated for you latly.
Ariella: So lately I’ve actually been trying to get into audio books because I’m trying to future forecast, and someday I would love to have my books in audio format.
And since for me, Lucy Lennox was the first person that I read. I was like, well, let me dive into her audio books first. And so for me, I have a lot of Irish characters who show up in my books. They just, they keep popping up. I do love a good Irish lad. And so I thought, well, her “Hudson’s Luck,” which is part of her “Forever Wild” series. She has an Irish character in that one.
So I kind of wanted to hear how that would work and sort of think about, you know, how would it sound? And, you know, “Love Means More” and “Fancy Love” where I have two Irish brothers and my “Good Bad Idea” series. And so listening to that book that I have read, it was just like, oh, it’s such a good book.
So Lucy’s always the person that I kind of end up going back to, and, you know, looking to, as she’s been a wonderful mentor to me as well. So I like kind of revisiting her stuff and she has a new book coming out ‘Thick As Thieves” that I’m really excited about, so I’m like yay more new stuff.
Jeff: Yeah, you picked a good one for the Irish cause Michael’s take on Charlie is just so spot on, wonderful.
Ariella: So, good. Yeah. Down the road in the future I’ll be able to do that.
Jeff: And, you know, we’ve talked about the future all over the place while we’ve been talking. Can you lay it out for us kind of what we can expect to see after “Play by Heart” comes out.
Ariella: So after Played by Heart” comes out I have “Make Music Together.” It was the one I mentioned earlier about Levi, who’s a drummer. He’s moved to Sunnyside since Iason is located in Sunnyside. That I believe comes out sometime in June, I think June 18th. Pretty sure.
Jeff: And what about “Suite Dreams” six and seven?
Ariella: I ended up cutting those out temporarily and I’m possibly going to put them later in another series.
So I had, in ” Honeymoon Ever After” we meet Declan, which is Kieran’s brother, and he’s going to end up in Sunnyside going to university. So I think he might show up in “Brouhaha” in my fourth Sunnyside series after “Harmony of Hearts Wraps” up. So he’ll probably show up there.
And then we had the twins that were Rory’s brothers. And one of those is going to show up in my reality TV series on like a “Project Runway,” kind of a show, and he’ll become best friends with West. And I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen to the other brother. I don’t know where he’s gonna fit yet. So right now, “Suite Dreams” is complete at five books.
But, we’ll still, there’s people in there that we’ll meet in future series that I’m really excited to tackle.
Jeff: I love how you’ve gone for the whole connected universe thing. Very much like Lucy’s done since “Made Marian” and “Forever Wilde” and “Aster Valley” are all essentially under one big tent.
Ariella: Yeah. And I have a bar tender that you met, I believe in the first time you meet him is in “Love Directions,” which is book five of “Good Bad Idea.” And he is just, his name is Red. He is just the charming, charming guy. And he keeps popping up every so often because he works at Duke’s bar. So anytime anyone goes to that bar, Red sort of shows up.
And I have so many people who keep emailing when is Red getting a story. I’m like, I’m pretty sure it’s in “Brouhaha.” Just hold on. I’m working on it. I promise the wait will be worth it. It’ll be a fun one. His cat Gonk we’ll be involved. It will be worth it.
Jeff: How can people keep up with you online so they know all of the latest details on what you’re working on, and of course, what your dad is baking?
Ariella: Yes, the best way to do that would be to sign up for my newsletter. You can do it at ariellazoelle.com or you can sign up the back matter of any of my books. I have a link for a bonus chapter, that’ll get you on my newsletter as well. I have a Facebook group called Ariella Zoelle Sunnyside. It’s a wonderful place. We have a really warm, inviting, cozy group. We’re very active. So if you want a place to chat at me, that’s the best place to kind of reach me on a daily basis, but I’m also on Twitter and Instagram @AriellaZoelle and those are probably the best places to reach me.
Jeff: Fantastic. Well, Ariella, it has been so wonderful getting to talk to you. I love everything that we’ve talked about and learning more about the books. Thank you so much for being here.
Ariella: Yeah, thank you for having me. It was such a pleasure getting to talk to you.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, check out the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. The show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve discussed in this episode.
Jeff: Thanks so much to Ariella for a wonderful conversation. Since she and I talked, I have finished “Play by Heart” and I absolutely love it. I’ll have a review of that for you closer to its April release date. And I also want to thank Sarah and Jess, our patrons who asks questions to Ariella.
If you want to ask questions to the authors that we have on the show, our patrons have that opportunity. And of course you can get information about all of our Patreon stuff at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next in episode 367, Lisa from The Novel Approach and Jay from Joyfully Jay are going to be joining us.
Jeff: It’s that time again as if Will and I have a broken your TBR budget enough this month already, we’ve got Jay and Lisa back here, and we’re going to find out what they’ve been reading recently.
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.