Jeff welcomes authors Layla Reyne, Allison Temple, and Cari Z to discuss the new Accidentally Undercover romantic suspense series. We talk about the origin of the series (which includes secret message chicken wings), and what it was like for Allison and Cari to write their first solo romantic suspense books. Plus, they talk about their own books in the series, and give the details about the other books. Cari, Allison, and Layla also have some great reading and watching recommendations.

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Show Notes

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Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we’re going “Accidentally Undercover” with Layla Reyne, Allison Temple, and Cari Z.

Hello, Rainbow Romance Reader. Welcome to episode 451 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and it’s great to have you here for another episode of the show.

As always, this podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, including the opportunity to ask questions to our guests, go to

Now before we get into the interview, I wanna take a moment to tell you about my trip to the Luna Luna amusement park exhibit in LA. You may remember back in episode 449 as part of the conversation about the Keith Haring biography, “Radiant,” author Brad Gooch and I talked about Luna Luna, which was an amusement park designed by artists, including Haring, that was on display in LA for the first time since its debut over in Germany in 1987.

I had a day job trip to LA in March, and not only did I get to go to Luna Luna, but I also got to go to Brad’s launch event for “Radiant” that took place there. It was really wonderful to hear Brad talk more about the book, and to get to meet him in person after such a great conversation we had for the show. Plus, I got to spend some time looking at all the amazing rides that have been so lovingly restored as part of the exhibit. In fact, part of that includes seeing some of the shipping containers they were stored in, some of the damage that some of the things took that were not able to be fixed.

Some things that came outta those containers looking amazing. They had this great comparison of a T-shirt that they were able to take out of the container that was in terrific condition. And in fact, they’re selling some of the vintage shirts at Luna Luna. But then there was another T-shirt that had been like, totally destroyed by rats or something that were in the container.

So, it’s really such a great look at this piece of history. It’s such a magical place, Luna Luna, with all of these illustrated rides. And the people who are walking on stilts and some of the others that are walking around in costumes. I really had a terrific time there. I shot quite a few pictures too and took some short videos. So if you’d like a look at that for yourself, you can actually go to and see all of it. And of course, that link will also be in the show notes. If you happen to be in the LA area, I highly recommend you check this place out for yourself. cause it’s really something. Currently it will be open through May 12th.

Now let’s get into some romantic suspense. The “Accidentally Undercover” series started releasing at the end of March and it features stories where one of the characters ends up in over their head when they’re involved in some kind of caper. Could be an assassin, could be a spy, could be something else.

The series is the brainchild of authors Allison Temple and Layla Reyne, and once you hear the origin story behind this you might never think of chicken wings quite the same way again. I know I haven’t since I talked to them about this. Now, not only do we hear from Allison and Layla, we’re also joined by Cari Z, whose entry in the series “Under the Gun” came out just last week.

Layla Reyne, Allison Temple, Cari Z Interview

Jeff: Layla, Allison, and Cari, welcome to the podcast. It’s so exciting to have you here.

Layla: Thanks for having us.

Allison: Hello.

Jeff: We have a great new series to talk about with “Accidentally Undercover,” but as we get started, I’d like for you to each introduce yourselves so that everybody can kind of get to know you if they don’t already. And as you introduce yourselves, tell us about what your latest book is that’s not part of “Accidentally Undercover.” and Layla, we’ll start with you.

Layla: So, I’m Layla Reyne. I write LGBTQ romance and romantic suspense. This is my first book for this year. My last book last year was “Over a Barrel,” which is a sapphic holiday romance about two attorneys who are negotiating a contested end of year deal.

And then after this book, coming up pretty quickly after, will be “Best Play,” which is the final novella in Marsh and Levi’s “Perfect Play” series. So, they have a very overdue wedding and a very angry son about it. So, they’re gonna get married finally.

Allison: I’m Allison Temple. I write queer romance and fantasy. My last year was a quieter year, release wise for me. So yeah, this year, the “Accidentally Undercover” is my first release this year. Last year, my latest release was the third book in my “Pirate and Her Princess” trilogy, which was a sapphic lesbian pirate trilogy that started out as like a spin on the “Princess Bride” and then just took on a life of its own and ate my life for five years. So, yeah, I wrapped that up last year and moving on to new things this year.

Cari: Oh my, God. I can’t believe I haven’t read that yet. Oh.

Layla: It’s fantastic. The audio is really fantastic.

Cari: “Princess Bride” plus, like, sapphic pirates. You had me. I’ll pay.

Allison: It sells itself.

Cari: Oh, it does.

No, that’s your tagline. Wrote itself. Perfect.

I’m Cari Z and I write queer fiction across almost every genre you can think of. And I just came out with the fourth book in my “Panopolis” series that is queer superheroes and super villains kind of battling it out slash falling in love. And yeah, I finally got rights back to the first three books, so I just took ’em back, published ’em, and put the fourth one out.

Allison: Amazing.

Jeff: That’s a series I need to read because I love a good superhero, super villain book. Sapphic pirates, too, I have to say, you’ve added to my TBR, and we’ve barely started.

Allison: You’re welcome.

Layla: Yes.

Jeff: So, Layla and Allison “Accidentally Undercover” as a series is kind of your brainchild. Tell us a little bit about what the series is for everybody.

Layla: Allison, go ahead. I think it is going to be your brainchild.

Allison: Yeah, it’s my fault. So, I’ve been publishing for five years, and I started out in male/male contemporary romance. And Layla and I were buddies, but like I really thought that like, that was gonna be my bracket forever and ever. It was cute contemporary romances. But every so often I’d be like out doing something. I’d be out for dinner at like a chicken wing place and watching these like uber Eats drivers going back and forth and thinking about like how fun it would be if they were like carrying secret messages. And if you ordered a very specific combination of sauces on your wings, that’s a code to tell people.

But I don’t write suspense. So, I would send them to Layla, and she would write back and go stop. Because she has this whole universe of books she’s writing in that don’t involve secret message chicken wings. But I didn’t stop. I’ve never stopped. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. The last one I sent her was about Bitcoin and basketball players.

And like, it just, they, the bunnies became bunnies upon bunnies and eventually it became clear that it was too much for Layla to write on her own. I swore up and down, I don’t write suspense. These aren’t for me. And so eventually we realized we were gonna have to invite some people to help offload some of these bunnies and put them out into the world where you start with these sort of mundane, everyday scenarios, but then it turns out that someone’s a spy. And things get silly and explodey quickly.

Layla: Yeah, I mean, we had a whole running Google Doc for, I don’t know, at least two years where we were just putting the plot bunnies, right? And so eventually we got to the point where we’re like, you know what, we’re just gonna have to bite the bullet.

Allison and I clearly weren’t gonna be able to get through all of ’em, so we invited some friends like Cari, and Linden Bell, and R.L. Merrill, and M.A. Grant to join, us each bring their own voice to this and have some fun.

I mean, who doesn’t love “Grosse Pointe Blank” and “True Lies” and all those kinds of, oops, I’m a spy. Or, oops the person I like’s a spy. And it’s a lot of fun. It’s a fun, fun trope that we wanted to play with.

Jeff: Please tell me that somewhere in these books there is secret message chicken wings.

Allison: It turns out that one doesn’t have legs. It only has wings. And so yeah, it just never got off the ground, unfortunately. Sorry. Punny.

Layla: Punny. Punny Pun.

Jeff: That’s too bad because you kind of had me at secret message chicken wings there.

Allison: I know. Maybe there’ll be sequels, but yeah. No, I don’t think the chicken wings made the final cut, unfortunately.

Jeff: It’s a bummer. Cari, what inspired you to come into this series?

Cari: So, contemporary anything is not where I gravitate when I’m writing on my own for the most part. But I write a lot with L.A. Witt, who I know you’ve had on your podcast before and she is great at romantic suspense, and that’s what we write together. And so, Layla got in touch with us, and it was like, oh my God, this would be amazing. And then L.A. looked at her schedule and she was like, you know what? I am full up on hockey right now. I don’t have the bandwidth for this. You can do it if you want to. And I said, I do want to, but I have no idea what to write.

And so, I’m fretting about it. I don’t have secret message chicken wings to fall back on. I’m just like, oh my God, what am I gonna do? And then I found a picture of a woman who had to be in her eighties climbing down this like wrought iron fence in full, like fancy clothes and a hat. And I thought that looks like a spy sort of thing to do. She looks like a badass. And so, I decided to make her my main character’s grandmother.

So, she’s the spy and he didn’t realize she was a spy the whole time he was being raised. So, random inspiration helps me figure out what to do. So, yeah, I fell into it a bit, but I’m really happy that I got to brush my wing, so to speak.

Jeff: I love that, just all these little inspirations, plot bunnies that just kind of pop out when you’re talking about regular people getting thrust into some of these things.

Layla: Yep.

Jeff: Allison, you lead off the series with your book. Tell us a little bit about what you wrote about.

Allison: It is called “Under Her Roof.” So, it’s a sapphic romance that leans, I think, more towards the mystery side than the suspense side. So, it takes place up here in Canada. I live in Toronto, and it takes place in what we call cottage country up in the Muskokas, north of Toronto, where the rich and famous have their cottages. You know that most of us. My living room would be their guest room, and then it just sort of goes from there.

So, yeah, so Jillian her father who’s a famous Canadian novelist, and he’s died recently, and there’s a lot of tension in the family as to who gets what and who gets to keep the house and the cottage.

So, she’s gone up there to try and sort of put things right. But it turns out her evil conniving sister’s there hosting a wine auction for the weekend with a bunch of VIPs including Jillian’s ex-girlfriend who shows up unexpectedly maybe isn’t who she says she was. And then the murders begin.

I think that’s, isn’t that the way that, like, you can twist up a story if you start running out of ideas, just throw in “and then the murders begin.” So that’s what I did.

So yeah. So, it all takes place. It’s like a bottle episode. It all takes place over one night. Yeah. And has a sort of “Knives Out,” rich people trying to solve problems they’re completely incapable of solving on their own kind of feeling. Yeah. And by sunrise, they either have to escape or die.

Jeff: That’s two options. Two very binary…

Allison: Those are the possibilities. Yeah, exactly.

Jeff: I love how you wrote such a tight timeline on that too, like hours.

Allison: It was a real challenge to keep it in that space. Yeah. You know, I mean, Layla writes, yeah, I’m familiar with Layla’s suspense, most of all. And like she writes these big sprawling stories over cities and times.

But I really like the challenge of keeping it we’re here, we have to figure out what’s going on. There was a storm, so of course there’s no power. There’s no cell phones. Cell phones are like the bane of any kind of like actiony, mystery kind of story because you can just Google it or call someone and go, we’re in trouble. And so, I had to take all of that away from them to make the story longer than a chapter kind of thing. It was fun to sort of play with it and piece it all together.

Layla: Bottle episodes are great. Like television, movie books, like bottle episodes are fantastic. They’re some of my favorite on TV, of episodes of TV and so like in book form it’s great too. And you used a second chance romance trope, right? So, that helps. And moving the romance along within that timeframe.

Allison: Yeah. exactly. It makes, yeah, much more plausible than falling in love with a complete stranger over one night and going, yes, I’ll run away with you. Like it, it seemed important that they needed to have some kind of previous relationship in order to make the romance fit in with everything else that’s going on at the same time.

Layla: Now you know my pain.

Allison: I do.

Jeff: I was gonna ask how the romance worked, and of course, second chance makes so much sense because all that history they’ve got, they could instantly reference it back.

Allison: Yes. And in this framework, all of that history. But what do you mean you were a spy the whole time? Like, I thought I knew who you were and now not only did our relationship not work, but you weren’t even telling me the truth. So yeah, so it adds lots of different layers and stakes to the story.

Jeff: And some nice, I imagine moments of forced proximity because they can’t leave this place either.

Allison: Literally cannot go anywhere. Yes, we are stuck here with all of these people I hate and a dead body. It’s very claustrophobic, but that was intentional.

Jeff: How was it writing suspense after you’d been giving over all these plot bunnies to Layla over the years?

Allison: I’m so glad to be rid of all of them. I mean, I’m a very writer and so it was one of the reasons I kept it all in one night is because if I let it get too big, I really struggle with like, keeping all of the bits together. Like I flipped that just because the characters don’t know what’s happening, I do know what’s happening, like I’m supposed to know all of it.

And so by keeping it all contained in one night, I was able to control those things a little bit better than if I’d let it spread out over a bigger geographic area, over a longer timeframe, I would’ve struggled more, first effort anyway, to like keep track of all those pieces and make sure that they all get thrown out at the right moment kind of thing.

Jeff: Will you come back to romantic suspense or is this going to like you, you’ve quenched that thirst now and you’re…

Allison: And one and done. The chicken wings are still out there, so, you know, never say never.

Yeah, maybe one day when I find a hole in my schedule the chicken wing story. To be honest, I really struggled starting the story. Like I had, again, I have too many ideas and so I had this one. I had, it wasn’t chicken wings specifically, but it was an Uber Eats kind of scenario where the driver keeps dropping off things. I had all of these other plot bunnies and it took me forever to like sit down to one. So, they still exist. And there’s nothing to say I won’t come back to them in the future. Yeah, we’ll see.

Jeff: At least now Layla can just say, well just go write it because you’ve written one.

So, Cari, tell us a little bit more about your book. You gave us a little sneak peek there but dive us in a little more on yours.

Cari: Yeah, so mine is also a second chance romance and a little more James Bondian. My character is raised by his grandmother who was a spy, and he doesn’t realize she’s a spy. He just thinks she’s really paranoid about home security and has a bunch of people, interns come in and out of their lives who are really into being locksmiths.

So, he grows up, they go their separate ways. He ends up working as an art restorationist and also getting a side gig cataloging people’s private art collections. So, he ends up in a billionaire’s house in Sayshell and happens to stumble into an op that’s being run by his ex-boyfriend, who was one of those interns who turns out to be a spy.

Only he doesn’t realize he’s a spy. So, he gets into it with him and then breaks his cover. And then there’s a shootout because my book is called “Under the Gun” and I can’t live if I don’t write explosions and gunfire. Doesn’t matter what genre it is. Fantasy, I will blow something up. Science fiction, I’m going to shoot something outta the sky. There must be fire and hell like hell raining down.

And then things go and get worse from there. So, it’s a little less funny than I had intended it to be. A little more intense. But there’s still some fun revelations along the way. Like, what do you mean you’re a spy? You can’t be serious. What do you mean my grandmother is a spy? That’s bullshit. And then, yeah, it sort of rolls from there.

Jeff: When you say grandmother is a spy, my mind immediately goes to Helen Mirren in “Red.”

Layla: Mine too.

Allison: Yeah.

Cari: My inspiration. My lady. Yes. Yeah. Arrange flowers and like handle those guns at the same time. You are my kind of person. Yes. All the respect to Helen Mirren.

Jeff: That’s awesome.

And then Layla, yours is in a universe we all know and love.

Layla: Yeah. You don’t know that. Like if someone knows Jax from “Fog City” then right. They are the spy, so to speak here. Mine is one of Allison’s plot buddies in that she had proposed, what if critics from a certain, well-known food critic thing, what if that was a spy’s actual cover? And then they were a spy and she’s like, you write foodie romance, and you write romantic suspense, have fun.

And it was quite dangerous. It’s like, do you really wanna do this? Are you sure? And so, we have February Winters who is the main character, other main character, and she runs a restaurant called Under the Table in San Francisco. She’s hired this bartender Dillon Jax, who’s pretty awesome. And unbeknownst to February, Jax, a.k.a. Dillon Jax, is there watching out for this spy who’s gone AWOL who is using as a food critic as his cover.

And so, Feb’s big revelation is quite funny because she gets thrown into frying pan with all the Madigans. Feb like walks into the restaurant and, oh, who are all these people? And why are you sitting with them? This is a little intense for me.

Allison: You don’t have a reservation.

Layla: And so, yeah, so it was a lot of fun getting back into “Fog City.” Getting Jax their story, which everyone’s wanted for some time. And this seemed like a great opportunity to do that. And also have a little fun with the foodie romance too, in there.

So, there’s these… you know, my typical dish descriptions and then there’s gunfire and explosions.

Jeff: Even the Under the Table as a restaurant name sounds very spy in and of itself. Spy, mafia, something’s going on in that restaurant besides food.

Layla: That’s, I mean, Feb is well positioned to be put into this. She’s kind of snarky. Unfortunately, really not coordinated enough to be a spy. But very good at what she does. It’s set at Valentine’s Day. She’s never done a Valentine’s dinner because she’s very, she’s like, I’m not doing a prix fixed dinner. I refuse. We are not gonna do this. And her whole thing is that like, I’m gonna be a different kind of restaurant, sort of. And that’s part of where the, that name comes from. And then it’s okay well now everyone says I can’t do it, so I’m gonna do it. Here’s my two middle fingers at you and then it just goes off the rails. As to what she thought was going to happen on Valentine’s Day.

Jeff: Now, there are other books here, than the three of you that we have here. Tell us a little bit about the other books and what we’re gonna see from these other authors.

Layla: I’ll start off. So, R.L. Merrill has “Under His Sheets,” and her story is set in Spain, which is really cool. Also, international locations and features a rock star, which if you know, Ro she is big into music.

Jeff: Yes, she is.

Layla: She is. And so, it’s a rockstar who takes a break and was also a teacher, in a former life. And so, falls back in being a teacher in an international school. And this guy that he hooked up with before he started, shows up at the school but pretends that he doesn’t know him, that he doesn’t actually speak English, like none of this stuff. And you know, the character starts to put together some, what’s going on, this is really weird. And it’s a whole lot bigger than just everything.

And from what I’ve talked to her, there’s some “Kindergarten Cop” kind of vibes in there. Like this guy in the school who gets wrapped up in everything and then there’s a real spy. And so, that, that’s kind of what’s going on in her story.

Cari: I don’t have M.A. Grant’s title.

Layla: Oh, it is “Under His Name.”

Cari: Oh my God, okay. The blurb is fantastic because talk about tropes. This one’s got identical twins. Which is just the perfect setup for hilarity. One of them is a spy off doing his thing, working with his partner, has a stupid accident and can’t pull off whatever the job they’re doing is. The other one is far from spy material. He hated competing with his brother. Sam just decided to stay at home. It’s been a very quiet life. He’s about to go have an adventure of his own in Malta, so another fabulous international location when suddenly he gets this hospital phone call and he’s gotta step in and help run this job. And sparks fly, shenanigans happen. Things go awry.

It kind of works because he’s so himself and not spy-tastic that no one would ever think this person would be a spy. So, it really sells the job and then things progress from there. I think it’s gonna be amazing. I think it’s gonna be funny. I think it’s gonna be really sort of sweet.

I love books where somebody gets to prove themselves. We write about so many bad asses, but it’s really kind of nice to also write about people who are just normal and then who rise to the occasion. So, I think it’s gonna be lovely.

Jeff: I like the sound of that one a whole bunch for that very reason, like somebody stepping up, you know. And a twin who’s like, has to take in all that information of like, I need to behave this way. I’m supposed to know this stuff.

Cari: Right?

Jeff: And then it’s like, I am not my brother.

Layla: But he gets the job and the guy because he is himself.

Allison: And then the last book in this series is “Under the Radar” by Linden Bell. I think this one’s gonna be really super cute. So, it’s part of the same universe as her “Mars Fitness” series, which is all very sort of contemporary nerd, jock romances. And so, this one takes a bit of a suspense spin on that.

So, Logan is the main character. He runs the juice bar at the gym and he’s very much like he can tell you everything you need to know about wheatgrass, but he is the last guy you want handling a crisis. And he’s been dating this guy. He can’t believe this guy’s into him. But he is for the last six months and like things are going great for Logan until some of his friends start pointing out that he really doesn’t know anything about his new boyfriend.

And the running joke is that he’s probably a serial killer or a spy or something like that. And then as situations begin to unfold, it becomes apparent that maybe that joke isn’t quite so funny and maybe closer to the truth than Logan ever expected. Because again, he’s the wheatgrass guy. He’s not the bombs and explosions kind of guy. So, yeah. Yeah. So, it’s gonna be the spy rom-com you didn’t know you needed and I’m really looking forward to it.

Jeff: All of these kind of have a lighter vibe to them, except maybe Cari, she said hers went a little darker than she anticipated. But that was part of the point of the series, right? To have a little bit of a lighter romantic suspense vibe going on.

Allison: Because they came from the chicken wing plot bunny, like, I think they were always going to be a little bit silly. Yeah, and it’s been a lot of fun to see what everybody does with them, whether they take one of the preexisting plot bunnies or come up with something on their own. Like it’s been fun to see where the silliness happens and where the lightness shines through, even in what could be a pretty serious story.

Layla: Yeah, I mean, I think we wanted to lean into the “True Lies” to the “Grosse Pointe Blank.” That kind of… and it they may be dark or not as funny because mine kind of. I’m in it to be funny and there’s some funny, but I’m probably leaning toward Cari’s direction as well, because that’s just where things go.

But you know, there’s those moments of lightness, of snarkiness, of fun and just, but in the whole grander scheme of things, like someone who’s not supposed to be in this situation that’s stuck in this situation, and how do they deal with it?

Jeff: I like those a lot too. Like along the same lines of somebody like proving themselves and rising to the occasion of something. It’s also like working your way through something you should never be involved in you know, for whatever the reason that you have it. And then if you fall in love at the same time, awesome.

Layla: I know for me it was so different because like all of my romantic suspense there usually both. You know, they may not both be good guys necessarily, but it’s two folks who are used to this world. So, it was fun to play a different, with a different character who has no idea what’s going on.

Like Danny, kind of. He’s an exec. He’s not an LEO or anything or an assassin, but he was always around it. Like he was, you know, Q and he was the sidekick.

Feb has no idea what’s going on. It’s like if I walk across the yard, I fall in a hole, right? Because that’s how coordinated I am. And so, yeah, that’s, that was fun to play with. And that brings levity and the funny and the humor with it.

Allison: I think too, one of the things that like from the very nature of the trope like you get to see. So, these people are in situations they never expected to be in, that they feel completely underqualified to deal with. But you do, like, it’s been a lot of fun to see how everybody comes up with the ways that these people can contribute.

You know, maybe February can’t walk in a straight line, but she’s awfully handy with a knife. And yeah, so it’s been neat to see how people find a way to bring these sort of everyday skills into this like, action packed suspense kind of environment. Because, because yeah, because you know, M.A. Grant’s story you said like the way that he’s gonna win the day is not by pretending to be his brother but be by being himself.

Yeah, and it’s neat, and I think that brings a little bit of lightness to it, is that ultimately there’s this joy in like, hey, I can contribute, I can be part of this even if I don’t have spy written on my job title on the front door of the building.

Cari: I just like competence porn. So, it doesn’t have to be a spy. It doesn’t have to be a spy. He doesn’t have to know how to handle a gun, but there’s nothing sexier than someone who is good at their, at what they do. So even if it’s not spy craft, there are ways to let the competence shine through, and I really like that.

Jeff: If competency could be its own like sub trope or sub-genre or something, I would totally go for that as like an identifier for a book.

Cari: Oh yes.

Allison: Hundred percent.

Jeff: Cari, I didn’t ask you when we were talking about your story, but how did it feel for you to do romantic suspense without Lori?

Cari: Odd. Odd because one of our strengths is creating characters who love that banter, which gives a lot of our books a little more lightness than they deserve, honestly. And so, writing that without that secondary input was, it was honestly a little bit hard. I didn’t know where I was going at times, so it was kind of a discovery book for me.

But that’s okay. Just put on my big girl pants and do it. And I think it turned out well regardless, which is not to say that I am not jumping a chance to write more romantic suspense with Lori because I am, and we’re writing one right now, so, you know, can’t give that up. I know. Oh, thank God. Makes me happy. But I was really it was nice. It was a stretch to do this one, and I really, I appreciated the experience.

Jeff: Do you think you’ll do more solo or are you gonna try and stay in the co-writes for the romantic suspense?

Cari: That is an excellent question. Right now, I’ve got so much stuff on my plate that this will probably be it until my own spy message chicken wing takes over. No, I got a lot of stuff on the plate. Including more like the romantic spend with Lori and some other books coming up. So, I’m happy to have this done and back there.

Jeff: It’s interesting to hear thinking about co-writes that it’s a genre you only write with your co-writer. Usually, at least in the limited experience I have, talking to other co-writers, you’re usually like, you write something separately and then you decide to come together to write something with someone else who does the same thing.

So that’s, it’s interesting how your romantic suspense before that was only in co-write.

Cari: Yeah. Yeah, it was kind of weird. We just connected and she was already writing a lot of romantic suspense and was like, you wanna do this? And I’m like if you wanna edit it because I suck. But it ended up being okay. And fortunately, I was able to lean into that and now we can write romantic suspense and it’s practically seamless.

And that’s one of the reasons coming into this by myself was so challenging. Like, oh my God, I don’t have a built-in editor. What am I gonna do? So, yeah. Very intimidating. And another reason for me to give my brain a little break from actually having to figure this stuff out myself. For me, without that assistance, contemporary in general, like, I just bow down to people like Layla who can do this and make it happen on a regular basis because people know when you get stuff wrong.

Fantasy, I can do whatever I want and nobody’s gonna tell me no. And if they do, I can say, well…

Layla: My rules.

Cari: Yeah, kindly suck it because I don’t care. Whereas…

Allison: I have a dragon. It’s not my fault.

Cari: Exactly. Or the pirate stuff. And you like, you know what? It’s what I want. But you write something, and you set it in the city and the next thing you know somebody’s sending you an email and they’re like, there is no apartment building on the corner of such and such. I’m like, damn it. You are right but stop it. Don’t tell Amazon whatever you do. Don’t label it a mistake in my book, please. I don’t wanna have to fight. So, I find contemporary very intimidating. So, cheers to y’all for embracing that because I don’t know you to do it.

Layla: Yeah. 18 books in on one, one world and I am like, I am gonna mess up, right? Even in this one with Jax, I wrote it and forgot that they were colorblind. I remembered before we got to the end so I could go fix it. But I wrote some line, and it reminded me, wait, I don’t think they can see that color. I don’t know why. Or no, I went back to read something. And then like I will go back and read a chapter and then I’ll end up reading half my book that I liked a lot.

I went and I read their stuff in “Silent Night,” and then I went, and I started at “Prince of Killers,” and then I got to “King Slayer,” and I said, oh, oops, I need to fix that. And I have series bibles and things, but still, as you’re writing, you kind of don’t think I’m like, oh, they’re not gonna notice that Feb’s eyes are blue. Whoops.

Allison: Yeah.

Layla: It’s not gonna be the same color blue that other people sense because they’re colorblind.

Jeff: That’s interesting. That’s not really a contemporary setting problem. It’s just like having a series that combines a universe of 18 books.

Layla: Yeah. But the setting thing is true. There’s a reason most of mine is North Carolina and San Francisco because I know it well enough that generally I am good.

So, having done now one urban fantasy, it was lovely. Oh. it was. I mean, you have to stick to your own rules, your own magic. What those rules are. But, oh man, it was great. It’s also why I ended up writing assassins because I’m like, I can’t deal with FBI rules for a bit. Can they sit over there?

Jeff: Create your own spy agency. That works too.

Allison: Yeah.

Jeff: This is how my agency works, and the rest of you just like whatever.

Allison: Do what you want.

Jeff: Did you face any of these kind of same things, Allison? I mean, you’ve written in contemporary, but it was your first romantic suspense too.

Allison: Yes and no. So, so I set, I also set mine in Canada. Most of the people drove up from Toronto to Muskoka for the weekend. I’ve done that drive. I don’t have a gigantic cottage to go to, but I’ve driven past them. Yeah, so I really stuck as much as I could with what I knew in terms of the spy character, Amanda.

Yeah, I did have to sort of fudge the truth a little bit in terms of like, who, who exactly do you work for? Cause we have spies in Canada, but like, it’s not… it doesn’t have the same ring as like FBI. I started Googling, like, who investigates financial crimes in Canada? And the answer was the CRA, which is like saying the IRS has spies, which is like, do they really,

Layla: Are they that exciting?

Allison: Is it really? Can I write a whole novel and have everyone believe that this person? So, I did have to like, when in doubt, create a task force. Like it doesn’t have to be a whole agency. It can just be like, yeah, some shared knowledge and people. So hopefully no one dings me on that too badly. Because yes, there are a couple task forces and if you Google them, I promise they exist somewhere. But you may have to go like a few pages down from the top couple of results.

Yeah. Making things work. The biggest thing for me. You know, Cari was saying like, please don’t email me and tell me there isn’t an apartment building on that block. I did have a couple beta readers who came back to me and were like, there’s always cell reception in that part of Muskoka. And I was like, but there can’t be just, there was a storm. Let’s just go with it people. Either you believe that you can interrupt cell service, or you can’t. We’ll see how it goes.

Layla: I mean, I think with all romantic suspense, there has to be a suspension of disbelief. I mean, “Bond,” the series doesn’t exist without a whole heaping, lot of suspension of disbelief for as many films as we have right now. That goes into it.

Allison: One of my favorite things is when we go to the movies and we watch like the latest installment of “The Fast and the Furious,” and we’re on like, what, “The Fast and Furious 12,” or something like that. And how did these people become international, like anti-terrorists? They were street racers, like, you know, they, most of them didn’t have jobs. How have we gone to like tanks and explosions and jumping out of airplanes?

So, yeah. So there, if you can believe that these people are saving the world, you can believe that there’s no cell service in Muskoka for one night. Like I think that’s, sometimes you just gotta roll with it.

Jeff: Things happen.

Allison: Things happen, and then the murders began. What do you want me to do?

Jeff: Something about the way you’ve described yours. I just envisioned a “Knives Out” meets “Clue” kind of scenario.

Allison: Well, originally, like I’m always thinking about it from a marketing perspective of like, what’s the tagline? And so, like lesbian pirates, that’s all I have to say. It sells itself. Originally, I was going to tag this one as like “Knives Out,” but queer. And then I realized that Benoit Blanc is queer. So, like I can’t sell it like that. It’s, that’s been done. But yeah, but “Knives Out” meets “Clue” is probably pretty close. It definitely has that campy side where like nobody, nobody believes any of these people are like, well no, there are a couple people who might actually be blood thirsty murderers, but like a lot of these people are just.

They just wanna tell you that they’ve seen “Hamilton” 10 times because they think it makes ’em sound cool. So yeah, I have a lot of fun sort of poking at how ridiculous people can be, even in life and death situations, like everyone copes differently and sometimes the best solution is just to open another bottle of very expensive wine.

Jeff: So how do these books come out? When are readers going to find them? Tell us everything.

Allison: Yeah. So “Under Her Roof” kicks it off on March 26th. So, they come out every Tuesday for six weeks, starting on March 26th. They’re gonna be on Kindle Unlimited, so KU readers, you can grab your copies there and yeah, they’ll be quick. They’re all relatively novella to like very short novel length, so they should be, you know, if anyone’s really keen on keeping up with the series, we tried to make sure that it was something you could get through in a week and be ready for the next installment when it comes out a week later.

Jeff: Awesome. Springtime romantic suspense.

Allison: Exactly.

Layla: Yeah. they’re all standalone, so, you don’t it’s you’re ready for the next one. But you didn’t have to have read one or finish one to jump into the next necessarily. They just share that same common trope.

Jeff: You don’t have to remember the stuff either. Like you don’t have to remember a plot point in one book to carry it to the other one.

Allison: It’s a different task force every time. So, you don’t have to remember the org chart or anything like that.

Jeff: That is awesome.

So, before we let y’all go, you know we’ve gotta get some recommendations because we love our recommendations on the show. You’ve already given me some as we started with what you were talking about. What have you been reading or watching recently that our listeners should maybe go check out?

Cari: I feel like I’m perennially behind when it comes to keeping up with what is coming out and what is really good. And I have only just fallen into the C-drama hole, which sounds terrible. I’ve only just been turned on to C-drama. And so currently I’m watching a show called “Nirvana in Fire,” which is incredibly shippable and also takes place in a mythological ancient China and is super amazing.

And in that vein, I’m reading a bunch of stuff by the same person, who is the writer behind “The Untamed,” which is on Netflix for a while. And then someday I’m going to watch “Blue Eye Samurai” because I need explosions. And they promised to give me them in that particular show. So, yeah, I’m super behind in all of my fabulous stuff.

Allison: I am the slowest reader on the planet, so I’m also usually a couple years behind. But I’m currently listening to the audiobook for a YA, sapphic, horror novel called “My Dearest Darkest” that’s set at a music academy in Maine. So far, it’s delightfully spooky.

And then on the TV side of things, I am a long time, Layla’s been a long-suffering listener to my obsession with Korean dramas. So, when you’re done with C-dramas, Cari, I will send you some recommendations for Korean dramas. Currently rewatching “Alchemy of Souls,” which if you like, sort of fantasy and magic and big feelings. That one’s really excellent.

Jeff: And Layla what’s been on your list lately?

Layla: So, watching-wise “Slow Horses” on Apple TV, it’s fantastic. Spies, well, I mean, MI6. And so, watched that and then “Reacher” the new season that had just dropped. So, we had, we binged watched through that. There was a lot of football, a lot of basketball. This is now the time of the year where the Carolina Tar Hill in me starts to pay attention as we transition from one sport to the other.

And then reading. So, I can’t read romantic suspense when I’m writing it. I have to read outside the genre that I’m currently writing. So, I binge read Riley Nash’s “Earth, Water, Air”…. It’s the elements series, elemental series. The first one was “Hold me Under” and I read it and loved it and just read the whole series. They did a great job with it. Really enjoyed it.

Jeff: Excellent. Lots of TBR loading up.

We talked a little bit about for a couple of you about what was coming next, but I do wanna circle back to that so everybody kind of knows what is next for you after the “Accidentally Undercover” stuff comes out. So, Layla, back to you to kick us off on what we can look forward to in the rest of the year.

Layla: Yeah, it’s kind of a romantic suspense bonanza for me this year after a little so away from it last year. So “Best Play” will come out in June, and that is Marsh and Levi’s book four. And then similar to Cari, I got some rights back for “Agents Irish and Whiskey” and there is a new book coming out in August.

Jeff: Can’t wait.

Layla: So that is “Angel’s Share.” It’ll be out in August. And then book two of my “Soul to Find” urban fantasy series will be out in October.

Jeff: Amazing. Lots of good stuff there.

Layla: Lots of good stuff.

Jeff: Cari, how about you?

Cari: So more romantic suspense. I’ve got the book is called “Manner of Death,” and I’m doing it with Lori, and we are just about to finish the murders, so hopefully we’ll be wrapping that one up pretty soon. I don’t know exactly when it’ll come out. And then, she started a shared universe for hockey. I don’t watch hockey. I’ve never watched hockey. I never thought I’d write a hockey book, but it turns out like last time, you don’t have to know anything about hockey when your co-author knows stuff about hockey. So, I’m gonna write an MMA fighter, which is something I know a lot more about. And she is got the hockey player and it’s gonna work out just fine. I’m telling I’m like, I’m insistent, but it’s gonna work out just fine.

And then I’m also writing a prequel to a fantasy poly trilogy that I put out last year that did really well, “The Triad Series.” And I’ve got a prequel that’s gonna be coming out sometime at the end of the summer probably.

Jeff: And Allison, what’s on your calendar?

Allison: So, my next release, I’m pretty sure I’ll be allowed to talk about by the time this episode comes out. My next release is part of a shared series called the “Subparheroes”. So yeah, so for the superhero fans in the group, this is that, but with a sort of campy spin. So, these are truly subpar superheroes. They’re the people whose pure powers didn’t get them into the Avengers. So, they’re stuck working for an agency called SPAM where they put their powers to the best use they can, even if it’s. You know, charming people in line at the grocery store.

So, my installment in that series comes out June 6th, I believe it’s called “My Not-So-Super Blind Date” where the son of the world’s greatest superhero gets stuck in a time loop on a blind date with a henchman for the local crime boss. And one of them has to die every time they reset the day. So, they have to figure out a way to get outta that. So, I’m really excited. I actually wrote this book back in like 2020 and it had been sitting on my shelf. And then when I heard about this shared world, I was like, that’s why I didn’t publish it. It’s been waiting. So yeah, so that’s out in June.

And then so a lot of shared series in the first part of the year. And then in the fall I’m starting a new solo series called “Afterlife Incorporated,” which will be my first venture in into urban fantasy. The first book is called “Only Mostly Dead” and features a grim reaper and a ghost solving adventures here in Toronto. I don’t have a firm date for that, but I’m hoping to have it done in time for spooky season because that would fit nicely. And yeah, and there’ll be a couple more of those in 2025.

Jeff: That all sounds amazing. We’re gonna link up to all the books we talked about. If any of these pre-orders are out there, we’ll link up to those too. And wish you a lot of fun and success with “Accidentally Undercover.” I think that’s going to be a lot of fun for people to start reading. Thank you so much for being here to talk to us about it.

Layla: Thank you for having us.

Allison: Thanks so much for having us.


Jeff: 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 We’ve got links there to everything that has been talked about in this episode.

And thanks so much to Allison, Layla, and Cari for coming to talk to us about the “Accidentally Undercover” series. Every one of these books sounds so good and perfect for some springtime reading.

All right, I think that’s gonna do it for now. Coming up next on Monday, April 22nd, we’re going to the theater as Adib Khorram joins us to talk about his new young adult romance, “The Breakup Lists.”

I enjoyed this book so much with its “High School Musical” sort of vibe as a theater kid and a jock find their way to a happily ever after amongst so much high school drama. It’s really a fun conversation.

Thank you so much for listening, and I hope that you’ll come back here 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.

Will: Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at Original theme music by Daryl Banner.