Jeff & Will welcome Allie Therin to the podcast to talk about her new urban fantasy thriller Liar City, the first book in the Sugar & Vice series. Allie discusses how Liar City went from the first short story she ever wrote to a brand new trilogy. She shares the origins of Reese and Grayson, their slow burn romance, and why it became her fifth book to be published. Allie also talks about the Magic in Manhattan and Roaring Twenties Magic series, and she’s got some book recommendations.
Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, March 13.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Content for Everyone website
- Content for Everyone: A Practical Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs to Produce Accessible and Usable Web Content by Jeff Adams & Michele Lucchini Where to Purchase | Buy ebook direct from Jeff’s Website
- Bonus Episode: “Content for Everyone” with Jeff Adams & Michele Lucchini on Big Gay Author Podcast
- Allie Therin Interview
- Allie Therin website | Twitter | Instagram | Mastodon
- Liar City by Allie Therin
- X-Men on Amazon Prime Video
- Maltese Falcon on Amazon Prime Video
- The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
- Blade Runner on Amazon Prime Video
- The X-Files on Amazon Prime Video/Freevee
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Amazon Prime Video
- Dragon Age on Electronic Arts website
- Spellbound (Magic in Manhattan Book 1) by Allie Therin
- Wonderstruck (Magic in Manhattan Book 3) by Allie Therin
- Proper Scoundrels (Roaring Twenties Magic Book 1) by Allie Therin
- Once a Rogue (Roaring Twenties Magic Book 2) by Allie Therin (pre-order until August 22, 2023)
- The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji
- The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence Book 1) by K.D. Edwards
- Charlie Adhara on Amazon
- Jenn Burke on Amazon
- Jordan L. Hawk on Amazon
- Hailey Turner on Amazon
- Imperfect Illusions (Devastating Magic Book 1) by Vanora Lawless
- Rachel Reid on Amazon
- KD Casey on Amazon
- Cat Sebastian on Amazon
- Felicia Grossman on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Links
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 Allie Therin joins us to talk about her brand new paranormal thriller, “Liar City.”
Jeff: Welcome to episode 415 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and with me, as always, is my co-host and husband, Will.
Will: Hello, Rainbow Romance Reader. We are ever so pleased that you could join us for another episode of the podcast.
Now, before we get into our chat with Allie, Jeff, you’ve got some news. You’ve got a brand new book that you can tell everyone about.
Jeff: Yes, I do. And, plot twist, it isn’t a romance and it’s not young adult. This is my first time out writing non-fiction. I’ve collaborated with my friend and day-job colleague Michele Lucchini, to write “Content for Everyone: A Practical Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs to Produce Accessible and Usable Web Content.”
Now, for anyone who is a creative, such as the authors perhaps that are in our audience, this book tells you what you need to know to create content on your website, in emails, and on social media so you can include everyone in the messages you’re putting out there. The book comes out this week on Wednesday, March 1st, and you could find out more ContentForEveryone.info, and in a special episode of the “Big Gay Author Podcast” that’s out now and available wherever you listen to podcasts.
If you’re putting content on the web, I hope you’ll pick up a copy and find out what you can do to make the internet a more accessible place for everyone.
Will: Not too surprisingly, I served as an advanced reader for “Content for Everyone.” It is positively jam-packed with information and if you are a creative, it’s definitely going to give you some food for thought. You can pick up your copy now wherever you get your books. Or, if you’d like, use a link on our show notes page.
Jeff: All right, and now onto our conversation with Allie Therin. You’ll discover pretty quickly in this interview that I loved every single minute of “Liar City.” This new paranormal urban fantasy thriller, which begins the “Sugar and Vice” trilogy, is simply outstanding, and I loved so much talking to Allie about it.
Fun fact, this was the very first book Allie ever wrote, but it is her fifth to be publish. She’s going to give us all the details on why that’s the case. Plus she’s going to talk about how she came up with this story, that in many ways actually mirrors things that are happening in society today. And stay tuned after the interview and I’ll tell you more about why I thought “Liar City” was so fantastic.
Allie Therin Interview
Jeff: Allie, welcome to the podcast. It’s so exciting to have you here.
Allie: Hi. Thank you.
Jeff: I have to say I was blown away by “Liar City.” I mean, it just, it blew my mind early and just kept going through the entire book. Tell everyone what they’re gonna find in this amazing page-turner.
Allie: Thank you. That’s an amazing setup. I guess a log line, I’d say, it’s a anxious pacifist empath and a very stoic empath hunter, and they have to team up and stop a killer and solve the mystery of a senator who was murdered just days before her anti-empathy bill is up for a vote.
My favorite description of it is “X-Men,” but make it gay, because it’s set in this alternate Seattle where they’re struggling with this emergence of empaths, and nobody knows exactly why it happened. And it sort of explores how society is reacting to these empaths, but at the heart of it it’s like a procedural detective mystery, kind of a little noir inspired.
Jeff: There’s definitely the noir aspects, which I really enjoyed. Kind of this flashback to 1940s and ’50s, but set in the now in this alternate universe. It was so clever how you did that. How did you decide to bring the noir into it and then weave it in in the way that you did?
Allie: I like that kind of old school like “Maltese Falcon” kind of noir feel. I actually have studied film in college before law school, so I loved sort of the Hitchcock, that just classic mystery and with suspense mixed in. And also, that sort of like unpredictable, you don’t know what’s gonna happen next, you know what I mean? Like, it’s not necessarily just a straight A to B mystery, there’s all sorts of twists and turns.
I was a fan of Asimov growing up and he wrote, I think “Caves of Steel” was one of the books I really, like, kind of imprinted on because I thought it was so cool how he brought this futuristic world with robots but then it’s focused on, like, this detective and he doesn’t like robots, but he’s got a robot partner. And it was an interesting… I feel like it took mystery, it took all the things I loved and then they put them together. And so that’s kind of I think what I wanted to do when I started this book.
Jeff: Yeah, I could totally see the empath hunter, Evan, as almost looking like Harrison’s Ford’s character from “Blade Runner.”
Allie: There you go.
Jeff: Or a hard-boiled detective from like some 1950s movie.
Allie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then he is like surprisingly good-looking. I did that on purpose because I kinda wanted to play with that trope because I feel like it’s always been sort of kind of a male power fantasy with these, like, very rugged, like, whatever. And I was like, “Okay, well, I’m gonna make him, like, young and really hot, but still that kind of vibe, right? Like that kind of stoic, grumpy, like…” Yeah, that was fun to sort of like think about how could I change up that trope a little bit, you know?
Jeff: And then you saddled him with a nickname of The Dead Man, making him sound like he came out of “The X-Files.”
Allie: Right. Yeah. He’s got this really, like, unattractive nickname and he is, like, not what people expect him to be. I think maybe that’s a little Buffy, like how “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” you had this beautiful like high school… I can’t remember if she was a cheerleader, but then she starts hunting vampires. So, it’s kind of like that kind of thing where you’ve got this guy who isn’t what you would think the character of The Dead Man would be. And he’s bicultural like I am, but is sort of also, it’s not a big part of the book, but it is, like, something that’s referred to a couple times to just kind of true to the bicultural kid experience, at least in my experience.
Jeff: What was your inspiration for, not just the story and what goes on there, but the specific characters of Reese who is the empath, and then Evan who’s the empath hunter, because it’s also fascinating the intricacies of both the story and the characters themselves?
Allie: Oh, thanks. Yeah, I think I talked a little bit about, like, the classic detective mysteries, the noir vibe, I think wanting to capture that.
Actually, I think there’s a little bit of “Dragon Age,” the video game series, in here, which might sound weird, but they have this… You know, in “Dragon Age” there’s, like, these Mages and there’s these Templars, and the Mages have magical powers, but they also have the… “may turn dangerous.” And the Templars are the ones who keep them in line. And there’s a lot of questions in the game like, is that moral? Is that okay? Because you have the two competing things. You have, like, people who really, truly could be really dangerous, and then you have the people who are possibly, like, prone to abuse, right? Because you’re dealing with people who haven’t done anything yet. They just have the potential to do it.
So, I thought that was interesting, and I have no answers, I just have questions. But, I brought that. You know, I brought that. I love that about the game, that it introduces these moral questions, and it makes you think. And there’s no easy answers. And so, I think that was one of the inspirations for sort of having this empath hunter who’s working for the government, and then you have the empaths and there’s… As a lawyer, you know, I’m interested in the law stuff, so I think I pulled some of that in it, which was fun. Got to brush up on my, like, Fifth Amendment and stuff. Like how would this really, like, happen, if this was the case, like self-incriminate, right? Like in a police procedural with the empathy and the Fifth Amendment.
So, anyway, that’s, like, a long way of saying that the story came from the characters. You know, it’s a little harder to know where they came from. I think Reese, I wanted to do, like… I feel like in past we’ve usually seen like Counselor Troi on “Star Trek.” Like, they’re very…
Jeff: That’s where my mind immediately goes.
Allie: Right, because she’s wonderful, you know, beautiful and talented actress. She’s such a great character on that show and she’s very, like, understanding and empathetic. And I wanted to take a slightly different tack. So, Reese is like a pain in the butt, right? He is a backseat driver. He is kind of a ballbuster. Like he’s very sarcastic. He can’t hold his tongue. He’s got this very, very prickly outside. He’s very, very, very, very soft inside, but I wanted to sort of take a different spin on empaths that I hadn’t seen before. So, the pacifism, and the sarcasm, and doing that with Reese.
And then Grayson, I think it was in some… I think his character evolved more like as I was working on the story. Like Reese was kind of Reese from the gate and then Grayson kind of evolved as I sort of figured out, like, how they were gonna play off each other.
I like to come up with characters in pairs. So, I don’t come up with, like, just the main character. It’s usually, like, a pair of characters and how are they gonna play off each other, and I start from that. So, there was some of that. And there was a lot of fandom probably inspired because there’s a lot of shipping in fandom and the fans get really passionate, and I found that, like, TV producers will be, like, happy to encourage this, but they won’t make the characters actually queer. And so, I was a little grumpy and I was like, “Well, I’ll make my own OTP, and they will get together, though, because I’m in charge.”
Like, so there’s a little bit of that, of wanting, you know… And that’s why the first book isn’t a romance because I wanted to draw it out. I wanted something where you could really just, like, sink into the world, and get these really high stakes and really get the characters, like give them all this backstory and make it all just a three-book arc for their romance, but do it…have them be queer.
Jeff: It is the slowest of slow burn because I’m like…
Allie: The slowest of slow burns.
Jeff: …as I get to, like, 65%, 70%, I’m like, “Will they kiss? Will they not?”
Allie: Yeah. And it’s…
Jeff: “Where’s it gonna go?”
Allie: …urban fantasy, there’s no kissing in the first book, but I know it’s, so the publisher has also put it under romance and it’s a Harlequin book. So, which kind of that how it ended up with Harlequin was unexpected. I didn’t expect that path. But yeah, I’m very happy how that worked out.
Jeff: And Carina Books I think operate under a slightly different paradigm occasionally because there are the urban fantasies and the more paranormal things that lurk in there and have been released. So, it’s not quite the Carina Adores, which is more category and must be a romance like a Harlequin, but I can’t help but go, “Maybe,” because there’s such a snap crackle pop between these two, especially once they’re just a little bit comfortable with each other. Not a whole lot comfortable but a little bit.
Allie: There’s a lot more of that in book two. Book two is when the romance… And it’s slow burn in book two, but I mean, there’s a lot of it and it’s… we’re going very much go on that journey with them. I’m not gonna, like, jump over it. Like, we’re gonna go on the journey with them and see them kinda switch up that relationship a little bit. We’re gonna get Grayson’s point of view too.
Jeff: Oh, fun.
Allie: Yeah. I know I’ve heard from a couple people who are like, “What’s he thinking?” I’m like, “Well, you’ll find out in, like, book two. Come back for book two.”
Jeff: Typically, when we see books that arc this way, it’s usually the POV kind of stays how it is from book one. You’re changing it up a little in book two. Kind of what led to that, or was it just time to hear from Grayson finally?
Allie: It was just time, I think, to put Grayson. I mean, we’ll still get some of Jamey’s point of view, and we’ll probably still have in typical suspense fashion, we’ll get a little interspersed from other points of view because there’s subplots and if I can… Hitchcock has a wonderful quote about the difference between, like, suspense and just, like, thriller.
Like, I can’t remember if it’s thriller that he says, but, like, the difference between a bomb exploding and then putting a bomb under someone’s chair and giving the audience 15 minutes of just stress and wondering when it’s gonna go off, and how that’s suspense. And so, that’s why I like to do the extra points of view. I like for the reader to know more than the characters because I feel like that creates a little bit of suspense there because they know what these characters are walking into and the characters don’t. Or they’re, like, putting the mystery together and watching the characters do it.
Jeff: This book was the first book you wrote, but now it’s your fifth to get published. Talk to me a little bit about that journey to publication with it.
Allie: Yeah. So, this book started life as the very first short story I ever wrote, actually. So, I was working a night shift job as a news analyst and I would finish up, and I would have a little bit of time sometimes at the end, and I started writing this short story. And it’s a mess. I still have it. It’s an absolute mess. No one would understand what’s going on or, you know, anything like that. But it was the first thing I had finished that was, like, original fiction with my own characters.
And I had this short story and then I kind of looked at it and I was like, “I really like these characters, Reese and Grayson. Maybe I can do a little bit more with this short story.” And so, I think this was like 2016, and I had no idea how to write a book, had never written a book. I wasn’t even very good at English in college, but I think I mentioned I have a film degree, so, like, I studied plot and so I kind of used that as my jumping off point to sort of take this short story and start exploring, like, how do I turn this into a book? What does a book look like? What’s a plot arc? What if I add some more points of view? What if I do this? And it just grew from that, like, little book, little story, into, like, a 95,000-word book. And then I was like, “Okay, well, I wrote a book. Oh my God, I wrote a book. I finished it, I edited it.” And then I was like, “Well, what do I do now?”
So, that’s when I… I don’t know anyone else who’s an author in, like, my real life, my offline life, and don’t know connections or anything there. So, it was a lot of like, “Well, what do I do?” So, researching, oh, okay, you send it to agents if you wanna get a publishing deal or you can self-publish. And I was like, “I guess, I’ll go ahead and query it.” And so, I did. I started querying it in 2017. And then as I was querying it, I was like, “Well, let me see if I can write another book.” And I wrote “Spellbound,” which was a very different process because I had just… I, like, used “Liar City” to figure out how to write a book, and then “Spellbound,” I just went in and I, like, wrote a book. And I was like, “Oh my God, I wrote a book.”
And I had sold that one so fast. Like, I don’t think it was a whole year from the day I started it to the day I was holding the…you know, had the offer from Carina. And that was just luck. So, much of publishing is luck. I happened to see like a Twitter contest for Carina pitch and I was like, “Oh, I have this almost done book and they’re taking partials. I’m gonna pitch it.” And then Mackenzie, my editor, was one of the ones who liked the pitch, and so I got the book to her, and she liked it enough that she took it to the directors or the editorial team, and yeah, they wanted three.
So, then I had the three-book series that I was working on there and I had “Liar City” just kind of sitting there on my hard drive. And I had talked to my agent about like, “Hey, well, why don’t we take this out on sub?” And we sort of figured like it wasn’t a Harlequin book, right? I was writing category romances. Or not category, but like genre romances. The “Magic in Manhattan” books are very much like your more traditional historical romances, but with magic.
But, you know, they’re more traditional romances, whereas “Liar City” is a little bit bananas, right? I mean, it’s the book I wrote with absolutely no marketing plan, no knowledge of the market, just pure storytelling, right? So, I didn’t really know who, if anyone, was ever gonna want it, right? So, we went out on sub with it. It was the pandemic. I was writing, I think “Wonderstruck” at that point. I wrote and started Wesley and Sebastian’s spin off, “Proper Scoundrels,” as this book was on sub.
And then at one point Harlequin came to us and was like, “Do you have anything else?” And my agent was like, “Well, she does have another book, but it’s not a romance.” And they were like, “Let’s see it.” And I sent it over and they offered on it for the Adores line. And it was just an amazing day, like, this publisher, and I was gonna get to work with my same editor, Mackenzie, who I just love and is so talented and was the perfect editor for this book. So, yeah, I sold it early 2022 and now it’s almost… I mean, it was like a sold… I had to stop the book I was writing and edit this one so that I could get it out. It was unexpected.
I did not expect it to end up with Harlequin because it is a bananas like urban fantasy with the romance is so slow burn. I thought they’d be like, “No, this is too slow burn.” But they’re letting me do it as a three-book arc and I’m so happy that, you know, that I’m just getting to do this book. Just feeling, yeah, really lucky. You know, I’m really grateful for the readers out there who supported “Magic in Manhattan” enough to the point that Harlequin’s willing to take a chance on this. I just got, like, a starred review on it, and I was… That’s just, like, amazing to me because this book has just been on my hard drive, just because I thought no one was ever, ever gonna want it. And then to see it getting a star review, and getting good trade reviews, and people saying like, “Oh my God, this is really good.” It’s the most like amazing… I just never expected it. So, it’s nice. A long journey.
Jeff: You mentioned this was the first book, this was even the first short story. You had your film degree. Were you thinking to be a storyteller in there kind of? And what made you decide, “I’m gonna write a short story now?”
Allie: I don’t know. I think sometimes you just wanna tell stories, because like I said, I was working as a news analyst. For a variety of life reasons, I got sort of funneled into law school and it wasn’t ever my plan to go. I wasn’t planning to make films, though, either. I don’t know that I really had a plan. This is the fun of being neurodivergent, right? Like, I didn’t really have a plan. I was just good at standardize tests. So, I rode that train for a while and I think at some point, like, you just realize, like, you just really want more creativity in your life. You really want more art in your life. You really wanna make it yourself. And it just kind of comes bubbling up. And it was learning how to harness, like, that desire and to actually, like, finish something and make it readable for someone else.
I think having a kid actually helped a lot, which I know seems like the opposite because then you have less time and, like, less sleep, and how could that be the thing that helps? But it made me a more, like, badass version of myself, if that makes sense, because it required me to be, like, more on and more sleep-deprived and still function and be there for this tiny vulnerable person that I love more than anything in the world.
So, it’s like you have to step up and I think having to do that kind of also helped me finally write something. I was like, I could see him and how messy it was for him to learn and how proud I was of him for the messy process. And I was like, “I can do that. I should be more grateful. Or not grateful, but, like, more gracious when it comes to myself, and let myself be messy and learn and creative, and just you can do it.” It’s a lot of, yeah, I don’t know.
Jeff: I love that pairing. Yeah.
Allie: Like I said, I don’t have anyone around me who’s really, like, into it either. So, if you don’t see it modeled, you kind of don’t know it’s an option for you. You know?
Jeff: I love that whole idea of just embracing the messiness and just going for it.
Allie: Yeah. I really was like I was watching him eat applesauce the first time, and he was just getting it everywhere, and I’m like sitting there cheering for him. I’m like, “You are amazing. You are so smart. You are so… Look at you go.” And then I later realized like, “Oh, I have never ever treated my own learning attempts with that much grace and enthusiasm and just be messy and do your best and it’s gonna be messy.”
Jeff: Before this book that took so many years, how did it really change over time? I mean, have Reese and Evan changed a lot, or do you still find their core back in the short story?
Allie: Back in the short story. They haven’t changed that much actually. The story always had Reese, like, consulting for the police. There was always a murder, there were always gloves, there were always… The empaths were always… You know, in “Magic in Manhattan” the magic’s hidden. The empaths in this one were always, like, out and having problems with society. So, like, the core parts of the story were there from the beginning, and Grayson kind of changed from, like, at first, he was a new partner and then he became the villain and then he became whatever he is in “Liar City,” which is a little complicated whether he’s a villain or an ally. So, yeah, Reese got a sister who was a detective along the way. That’s been fun to have her also in the story. But the core of it’s really the same thing that I wrote years ago.
Jeff: Jamey’s totally badass.
Jeff: I love her.
Jeff: And I love Liam too because Liam’s just along for the ride to, like, do whatever needs to happen.
Allie: He’s the boyfriend. Yeah. And my editor helped me get, like, their relationship right, which she had some great feedback from the original draft, but yeah, he’s a great boyfriend and he really puts up with a lot of crap from Reese. But yeah, I’m in an interracial family, so it was nice to be able to be like, “This is my world, and in my world there’s plenty of diversity, because that’s the only way I’m gonna feel seen, right? Like, because that’s just how my life has always been.” And so, Reese has this biracial sister, and it was just kind of like, “Hey, my biracial husband’s the most badass person I’ve ever met,” so she’s the most badass person in this book pretty much.
Jeff: She does kind of outstrip almost everybody. I mean, I think her and Evan are kind of equally paired in a lot of ways.
Jeff: But, you know, she’s not putting up with anything, that’s for sure.
Allie: No, no. She’s very alpha. Yeah. She’s smart and tough, but soft too in her romance. And she’s a fun one to write, and she and Grayson are fun together.
Jeff: Yes, they are.
Allie: Because they’re sort of used to seeing someone like themselves. So, there’s an interplay there where they’re like, “Huh,” they recognize I think something in each other.
Jeff: I like how you pull all this stuff together. There’s some bisexuality, there’s multiculturalism, hints at neurodiversity across the whole spectrum. Giving readers this view of a world and people that they may not interact with, has that always been kind of in your writing and something you just want to put out there as a creative?
Allie: It’s both something I think about a lot and something I don’t think about, by which I mean, like, there’s never any question that there’s gonna be diversity in the book. And specifically, when I’m planning, I think about it a lot in terms of like when I’m just doing “Magic in Manhattan,” it’s like who lives in Manhattan in the 1920s? It’s gonna be Italian immigrants, it’s gonna be Jewish immigrants, it’s gonna be immigrants. What is the reality of this city?
And so, Seattle, of course, Liam’s half Korean, I wanted to reflect how Seattle is a really diverse city, and Jamey’s half black, half white. Trying to capture that in the book. Trying to make other people feel seen who come from really diverse families or who just have diverse friend groups. I mean, I think a lot of people see that and they see themselves in that because their life is also diverse, and they’re like, “Yeah, this is what my world looks like too.”
Jeff: Another way I think you really reflect the world, and it’s interesting how you’ve done this given the timeframe that this book’s been written across, is how government treats marginalized groups. I mean, I think when you started in 2016, the world was vastly different than it is now with how we treat immigrants in this country, how there’s certainly a wide number of states who are seeming to try to outlaw various aspects of queerness, and here you have trying to outlaw the empaths. How did all that become part of the story? And is it more a reflection of the times, or was that kind of always there even before the world became like it is now?
Allie: It was always a part of the story. And yeah, it’s a little disturbing actually that it became so much more relevant in the years between finishing this book and now that it’s being published. But it’s something I think, like, I’m from an immigrant family, neurodivergent, queer, it’s not obvious though to most people who meet me. I don’t think most people assume any of those things from me when they meet me. And so, I have kind of had this perspective almost like a day walker in that I see what people say when they think there aren’t any immigrants. And I see that side of people think they’re safe with other people like them and they don’t realize I’m not. So, I think that it’s a little bit dystopian in “Liar City,” but I think we need dystopian fiction told by people who are really used to being misfits, right? Who are used to being on the fringes and kind of have that perspective.
I think because I’m intersectional, I belong to various groups, and so I think it’s not a one-to-one, like I didn’t sit down and go, “The empaths represent this group of people,” but there’s I think the different groups of people in how the society is reacting to empaths. And the thing I really wanted to do is to explore, like they’re profiting off fear. They’re stoking that fear. They’re stoking that xenophobia. They’re doing it to stay in power. They’re doing it to make money, right? Like, there’s different levels and there’s people who are believers in the stuff, and then there’s people who are not necessarily believers, but they can make money off of them. And I think that’s something I wanted to explore too. Like, there’s lot of kinds of villains, I guess.
Jeff: Yeah. Every single thing that happened there, it’s like you could tie it back to something happening now, which is sad but fascinating at the same time.
Allie: Yeah. I think “Library Journal” said it feels relevant to modern political times. And it’s definitely not like a political book in the sense of partisanship. Like, I also wasn’t trying to make it like a partisan book. Things are complicated. I think it hopefully is something that makes people think a little, I don’t want it to be super simplistic, like just red versus blue, our team versus the other team, because I don’t think humans are in a dichotomy, right? We’re all complicated creatures with all sorts of different… Like, learning from each other. And yeah, I just think I wanted it to be complicated levels of villainy as something I think in all my books that I kind of explore like, yeah, something in “Magic in Manhattan” too. Sort of like the villains behind the villains.
Jeff: I’m very curious about the aspect of like plotting versus going by the seat of your pants, because you mentioned with the short story you really didn’t know what you were doing, you were just putting things on paper. At some point, did this become a book that was plotted or was it always just kind of like, I’m gonna put all this out here, and me and the editor will sort it out later?
Allie: The short story was very much like just letting it kind of happen, and that was just me needing to finish something. I think is it Neil Gaiman who said like, “Learn to finish your shit.” It was like his best writing advice. So, that was what that was. And then, though there was a lot of planning. Like, I do a lot of planning. I also, I say no plan survives battle, no outline survives the writing process for sure. So, a lot of it gets changed and happens in edits, but I used to sit there at my day job, and I’d just keep a pad of paper next to me. And when my mind would wander, I would go to the pad of paper and I would think about whatever question I had, like what thematically makes sense for the ending or what kind of clues should I be laying at this point. And I just kinda worked at those things as I sort of built the story around this short story that I had initially written. So, there was a lot of… Most of my books now I write chronologically, but there’s still a lot of going back in and editing, because I thought maybe there’s people who can write mysteries right from the gate and get it right, but that’s not me. I have to do a lot of it in editing.
Jeff: Yeah. Because there’s so much you wanna make sure you seed it right, so it doesn’t turn out to be like, “Hey, what happened?” You kind of want it to all make sense when you get there.
Allie: Yeah, exactly. So, you do have to kind of, I go back, and try to make sure it’s working the way it should. And I do, I like the archeologist. Like there’s always people say like pantser or plotter, but I like the archeologist metaphor where like you’re uncovering the story as you go because… Or like an explorer with a map and you’re trying to find your way through. So, there’s like a mix of it, right? Like, you know the story but you’re also exploring where the story wants to go, but not like, I don’t feel like I’m just making it up on the fly either. It’s like figuring out what… It’s like a puzzle. I guess, it’s all like puzzles.
Jeff: You’re working in this case across the three-book arc. How much have you tried to think about, this is book two and this is book three as you were finalizing book one?
Allie: Yeah, so when Harlequin and I, when we talked about the plan for the series, I submitted like a couple like synopses, really short, like just a few paragraphs for books two and three. And I have kind of had the major points, like at least the relationship, like how it’s gonna go down in my head, like from the get-go. So, when I was editing book one, it’s like I know the major thing that’s gonna happen in book two and the major thing that’s gonna happen in book three. And I use that as, like I said, there’s a Easter egg actually in “Liar City” about book two, because that’s I know one of the things, and I always knew one of the things that was gonna happen in book two and I wanted to lay a little clue there that maybe someone will find. It’s pretty subtle.
Jeff: Yeah. After you said that, before I pushed the record button, I’m like, my mind’s just grinding away like, “What could that have been?”
Allie: It’s pretty subtle. I can tell you what chapter it’s in.
Jeff: No, I’ll let myself be surprised when I get to read book two, months from now.
Allie: And then I can be like… I can point to it and be like, “This was the plan all along.” It was my promise to myself that I would get to write book two. So, yeah. A planning of the series, like I do know and have, I guess like always kind of had a big story. It’s just a three-book story for this one.
Jeff: For people who are diving into “Liar City” as this is going out the week that it comes out, what can you tease us maybe about the future of “Sugar & Vice” in the next two books without giving too much away about anything? That’s a fine line to walk.
Allie: It is. We will learn more about Grayson and his past, and there will be romance, and I will deliver the romance that is teased in book one. So, that is coming. So, yeah, those are the main thing. I think there will be more murder mystery. I like sort of having that procedural. I think those are fun to read, but there’s an overarching plot as well. And I don’t wanna… Yeah, I’ll stop there, so I don’t wanna give too many, like, spoilers, but basically, it’s like a lot.
Jeff: Yeah, especially because people are just starting.
Allie: Yeah. You can expect a lot more banter probably too. And those two…
Jeff: Oh, good.
Allie: …those two prickling at each other.
Jeff: Your banter game is strong.
Allie: Aw. That’s really sweet.
Jeff: Reece and Grayson, and Grayson and Jamey, I mean…
Allie: I appreciate that. Thanks. It’s really fun to write. I think dialogue is my favorite thing to write.
Jeff: We mentioned a little bit of your other series. You’ve got the ongoing “Magic in Manhattan” and its spinoff. For listeners who haven’t maybe picked those up yet, give us a little flavor of what’s going on there, because it’s very different than “Liar City.”
Allie: It is. It is. So, those are, I mean, they have the banter, so if you’re interested in banter, banter’s like your jam, I think all my books probably qualify for that. But “Magic in Manhattan” is 1920, starts in New York, kind of goes a couple other places in the world as the series goes on, but starts in New York, 1925. There’s magic. There’s, like, supernatural relics that are causing problems. And it’s cozier, I guess, maybe is a way. I hear from people it’s really, really sweet and meaningful. They tell me like this is their comfort read. These are sort of the books they go to. I’ve heard from people that got ’em through a dark time, which is an amazing thing to feel like you could help someone there. So, yeah, they’re a little cozier, a little slower-paced. I mean, still, like, not, I wouldn’t say slow-paced. If you’re looking for slow pace, it’s probably not gonna be what you’re looking for, but it’s a little slower and a little comfort read more type stuff.
Jeff: What’s it like balancing more than one ongoing series, now that you’ve got them, between the original, the spinoff, now “Sugar & Vice?”
Allie: Yeah, if I’m being super honest, it has required some deadline extensions, especially also balancing, like, a job and everything else. But yeah, it’s getting easier. I think every time you start something new in writing or you take on a new aspect of being an author, there’s that learning curve. And this was a big one, trying to get my head between the 1920s and Wesley and Sebastian who are a lot of fun also there. I love writing them, but they’re completely different than Reese and Grayson.
And so, I was like halfway through writing “Once a Rogue,” and then I had to switch and edit “Liar City” because that was gonna come out first. And then I went back to “Once a Rogue” and now I’m like back in… Like that’s in copy edits. I’m back in the “Liar City” world. So, they’re very different worlds and it’s a little bit bouncing between them, but, you know, it’s getting there.
Jeff: What draws you to the kind of urban fantasy paranormal realms to write in? Because as we mentioned, “Magic in Manhattan,” “Liar City,” are very different, but they do have that overlap of the paranormal, the magic, and that kind of thing.
Allie: Yeah, I like mysteries and puzzles, and I feel like urban fantasy kinda you can do a mystery, but you can do it with a twist, right? You can add world building and magic, and reality can be a lot. So, I kinda like having the escape that paranormal and urban fantasy, and fantasy and science fiction, this all kinds of speculative fiction brings. I like that imagination. I love seeing what other people come up with. So, it’s a fun genre to play and there’s a lot of room to build out worlds. But you can still have…
It’s more about the setting to me, I guess, like I think of things like historical as a setting, even though it’s like a subgenre. It’s not a plot, right? It’s a setting and then you still have a plot in your historical setting. And urban fantasy is really still a setting. Same as science fiction is really like still a setting and you still need a plot that you bring to those settings. So, I like to bring, like, a mystery plot or, like, a twisty saving the world plot to those kinds of settings, and then let it all play off each other.
Jeff: So, many fun threads to play with when you just keep mashing all that in together.
Jeff: Now, we love to give book recommendations. What have you been reading that you think our listeners should check out?
Allie: So, mysteries, probably not a surprise, and bonus points if they’re paranormal mysteries. A lot of stuff. I recently read “The Decagon House Murders,” which is really cool. It’s a Japanese murder mystery that was written in the ’80s. A lot of fun if you like your classic locker room mystery. I recently read “The Tarot Sequence,” which mind the content warnings, if you’re gonna pick that one up. But it’s amazingly well-written and imaginative.
You know, I read Charlie Adhara because I love all her stuff. Jenn Burke, I love following her stuff as well. Jordan Hawk, Hailey Turner. And Vanora Lawless just put out a historical paranormal that’s set in World War I that I liked a lot. We talked about sports romances, always my friend Rachel Reid, love her stuff. And K.D. Casey with her baseball romances are just amazing. And then I’m always reading historicals too, so there’s Cat Sebastian and I’m really excited for Felicia Grossman’s new historical that’s coming up. Lots. I write in a lot of genres so I read across a lot of genres, I guess.
Jeff: I love how it’s like paranormal, historical, contemporary, sports. It’s a wonderful, like, mishmash of things
Allie: I like voice, you know what I mean?
Jeff: Give us some paranormal hockey sometime.
Allie: Oh, there you go. Well, I wish I knew anything about hockey other than I enjoy books, but yeah, hopefully someone will give you paranormal hockey books because mine would probably not be. I’d need to do a lot of hockey research.
Jeff: I’ll just put it out into the universe that you and Rachel Reid team up.
Allie: Oh, there you go. Yeah, you know, we share an editor at Carina, and I do need to, like, talk about my editor because she did so much for “Liar City,” this book that I used to jokingly call my problem child because I had never found the right home for it. Mackenzie, my editor, is a big comic book fan. I did a Zoom call with her before she edited it and I kind of told her like the backstory and I said, “I would love your help on the world building.” I would just be think. And her edit letter, her first edit letter was just like, I could finally see like the path to making the book what I wanted to make it. It was amazing. And like the chapter headers were her idea, and those were so fun to write. Like, I’m getting people like will ping me and be like, “I would play “Dragons without Dungeons,” or yeah “Dragons without Dungeons,” or like, I would read “Captain Feelings.” ” Like, she encouraged me to, like, do the pop culture ones and I think that really added a lot to the book, and yeah, a very great editor.
Jeff: I love that you’re shouting Mackenzie out because I don’t feel like editors get enough props…
Allie: They don’t.
Jeff: …in the public view. I mean, the authors themselves will be like, “My editor’s great,” but then don’t call it out like this because an editor can take something that’s good, and then just really elevate it to the next level. And it sounds like that’s what Mackenzie did for you.
Allie: Yeah. She’s really good at helping you see. Like, she’s got a real talent for helping you see how the story can be better and, like, empowering you to fix it. And then, she’s also just got good insights on, like, when something’s not working, or when there should be more of something. And editors don’t get enough credit. They really don’t. I would not be, I don’t think, able to do their job, to be able to walk that line between, like, just like I said, empowering the author to write their own book, but with the input. It’s just, it’s such a balance and I think a good editor pulls that off, and it’s a magic skill of its own that not every… It’s not an easy one.
Jeff: Yeah. And when you’ve got the one that clicks for you, you just never wanna let them go. So, I’m very glad you got to have Mackenzie working with you on “Magic in Manhattan” and then getting to come over to this too. That’s awesome. We know you’re writing a lot of things right now. What’s coming out next after “Liar City?” Like, what do we see actually in our hands next?
Allie: Yes. “Once a Rogue,” which is the second book in the “Magic in Manhattan” spinoff, which is “Roaring Twenties Magic.” So, “Magic in Manhattan” followed Arthur and Rory, you know, through three books. And then Arthur’s ex-boyfriend, Lord Fine, was unexpectedly very popular.
My editor was actually the first one to be like, “I think he could be the hero of his own book,” and it follows him and one of the villains from book two, then they got their spinoff. And so now they’re actually getting a second book, and I don’t know if we’re done with them actually after two books. We’ll have to see because they have a lot of a great dynamic that’s really fun to write. Like, they play off each other a lot. It’s very grumpy sunshine, it’s very jaded and soft. You know, you have your Lord Thirsty and Danger Marshmallow, right? And they’re fun to have play off each other. So, that one’s coming in August, very excited. And then 2024 will be “Sugar & Vice Two,” and I think 2025 will be “Sugar & Vice Three.” And then we’ll see what happens with Wesley and Sebastian. And then like every writer, I have back burner stuff always in my head, so we’ll see. But right now, I’m very focused on just like let’s just get through. Write what’s on my plate now.
Jeff: There you go. Deadlines.
Allie: Yes. Deadlines. Deadlines, yes.
Jeff: What’s the best way for people to keep up with you online to know everything that’s going on around the “Liar City” release, and then everything going after that?
Allie: So, I have my email list. It’s not so much a newsletter as it is just like a sporadic email list. I call it My Bookleggers since I write 1920s fiction. But it’s just book news. I only send an email when I have a release or a pre-order or like some other big, like I’ll send an email that I’m on this podcast. So, it’s no spam. If you wanna sign up for that, people can sign up for that. I’m on Instagram and Twitter and Mastodon. I’m probably most active on Instagram these days, but you know, if you wanna see my cat. And my Instagram feed is pretty much just stick figures, and goofy promo, and my cat. So, I’m a simple person and…
Jeff: We will link up to all that stuff in the show notes along with all the books that we talked about and those great authors that you mentioned. Thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited that the rest of the world’s gonna get to get in on what I read a couple months back with “Liar City”. And wish you the most success with it.
Allie: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. This was really cool.
Book Review: Liar City by Allie Therin
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. The show notes page has links to absolutely everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And a quick reminder too, if you’d like even more book recommendations, make sure to check out our weekly newsletter. You can sign up for it at BigGayFictionPodcast.com/report.
And Thanks so much to ally for coming to talk about “Liar City.” I so much enjoyed that conversation and how the story went from a short story to a three book series.
So, let me tell you a little bit more about “Liar City” and what I thought of it. And this is my first Allie Therin book. I know I’m late to the party because I haven’t read the “Magic in Manhattan” series. But boy, am I glad I’m here now because “Liar City” was seriously an epic and incredible story. The Seattle that Allie has created, it’s just a little bit adjacent to our own because it’s, the world with empaths. And these empaths have been cast as evil, as mind rapers, and people to be feared.
As we talked about in the interview, there’s this legislation that would help to practically to outlaw them. It’s a dangerous time to be an empath and even more so now that there’s a string of murders, including the author of that anti-empath bill.
Now Reese, who is the empath, and sometimes Seattle PD consultant, his SPD detective sister Jayme, and that mysterious agent known as The Dead Man, AKA Evan Grayson, they all end up working together… but sort of not really wanting to work together to figure out what’s happening, even as more bodies pile up. This twisty turny investigation was oh, so good.
This was a page turner from beginning to end and I had a very hard time putting it down in the moments where I really had to go do something else. I may have been a little late to work a couple of times in the morning when I was reading, and a little late to go to sleep at night. And it’s all Allie Theron’s fault because this was so wrapped up in so many different twists and turns. And you know what, that’s really all I’m going to say about the investigation side of the story because I don’t want to give up a spoilers. You deserve to go through all the twists and turns that I did.
Now I will say how much I love Evan and Reese. They are very different people. You’ve got Reese whose empathy sometimes, and maybe more often than not, gets the better of him. He’ll run into dangerous situations compelled to help others even while putting himself at risk. He talks way too much, saying things that he really should not. And the violence, or even the thought of it, can making physically ill, which makes it all the more difficult if he’s trying to run in and help somebody else.
And then there’s Evan, who really seems impervious to basically everything. He earns his Dead Man nickname. He’s very methodical, seems to anticipate everything almost a step or three ahead of what’s actually going on. He’s such an enigma that only begins to unfold a little bit by the end of this book. He will tell you not to trust him. Even though he seems like exactly the person you want to trust and put faith into.
You put these two together and you’ve got a team that you would not expect to work as well as it does. And boy, they don’t expect to work well together either. And that’s what makes it so charming in a way. While they would deny being a good team. I couldn’t help but root for them because of the way that their teamwork actually played out. They remind me a lot of Gregory Ashe’s “Hazard and Somerset” in terms of how opposite they are, and yet so good for each other and the way they can work together.
Reese and Evan’s slow and occasionally fraught warming up to each other was so perfectly written by Allie. What starts as fear on Reese’s part grows to an uneasy working relationship that is sometimes two steps forward, one step back… or maybe more accurately, one step forward, two or three steps back. All depends on how you want to read it. And it ends up at least as a mutual respect with inklings of something more on the horizon for these guys. As Allie mentioned, this is a slow burn romance that plays out over three books.
Reese’s bad-ass sister, Jayme was incredible too. There is far more to her than meets the eye. And as I mentioned, I look forward to seeing much more of her and her boyfriend, Liam, who happens to work PR for the Seattle PD, in the future books. I am so eager for that next book in the “Sugar and Vice” series. And I highly recommend that you pick up and check out “Liar City” by Allie Therin for yourself.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next, on Monday, March 13th, we’re going to hear from author Ruby Roe about her debut sapphic fantasy romance, “A Game of Hearts and Heists.”
Jeff: Here’s another book that I fell head over heels for. I’m really not sure what it is about paranormal that suddenly I’m reading and loving it so much this year.
Now, Ruby Roe is the not-so-secret pen name of author and podcaster Sacha Black. She’s going to not only tell us about this new romance, but also what inspired her to move from writing YA fantasy and books on the craft of writing to making her debut in queer romance.
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 kinds of stories 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. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.