CJane: It doesn’t seem like it! Thanks for having me back.
Renae: And now you have a new book out Sex, Love and Videogames. Tell me, what have you been doing between now and Wild and Precious?
CJane: Working, dancing, visiting my family in the Washington, DC, area. We’ve also been hosting my son’s best friend who moved back to the area, so with two 19 year old musicians in the house, it’s been lively! In the writing game, along with finishing Sex, Love, and Videogames, I also wrote a follow up novella to Wild and Precious, titled There You Are. It should be out by the end of this year.
Renae: Congratulations on the new release that came out on the 21st of August. Let’s have a look:
Shy guy Jed Carter has always felt invisible next to his charismatic older brother, Kent. Kent’s master plan for Jed is simple: University of Virginia, fraternity, business, sports, and ladies’ man. None of it is Jed, except for playing on the rugby team, which he joins in defiance of soccer-loving Kent. Jed comes out in his sophomore year and starts seeing Pete, an attractive junior, who uses him for sex and videogames. Jed wants more—in life and in love—and starts making his own plans. First on the list: getting to know Charlie, the handsome guy working at the local videogame arcade.
Charlie Ambrose has always felt like an oddball, and not just for his tendency to stutter. Being gay sets him apart from his African-American community, and as a “townie,” he doesn’t fit in with the college crowd. Charlie’s inspiration is his cousin, Morocco, who’s transgender and doesn’t give a fig about fitting in. Art is Charlie’s passion, and when a local videogame designer discovers him, Charlie’s living a dream. The only thing he’s missing is love. But the last person Charlie expects to find it with is a cute, white U.Va. rugby player named Jed.
CJane: Right? It’s pretty much of a miracle because neither one of them reeks confidence. But Jed has gotten fed up with not being the author of his own life and he’s just been dumped by his “sex and videogame” buddy Pete. Something impels him to go over to the videogame store and talk to that cute guy Charlie. On Charlie’s part, his cousin Morocco happens to be present when Jed stops by, sees the sparks between the two, and sees how Charlie is being stopped by his concern about his stuttering. She drags Charlie to Jed’s next rugby game because she’ll be damned if she’ll let Charlie get in his own way.
Renae: Do you have any personal experience with a stutterer? My husband and son are both stutterers (I don’t believe you are ever “cured,” you just learn to control it). I know the emotional toll it can take on a person when they are unable to control their own mouth. My husband is emotionally scarred by the stutter he didn’t learn to control until his late teens. My son as well, he was only five, but it worried him greatly.
CJane: I knew people who stuttered growing up and in courses that I took. It has to be a hard thing emotionally, like anything that makes a child “different” or subject to teasing. It was satisfying showing Charlie overcoming his concerns and ultimately not being stopped by his stuttering in love or profession.
Renae: Coming from Australia, our ethnic groups are very different from those of America. I therefore enjoy learning about different cultures in different novels. Did you find it hard to write one black and one white character?
CJane: Race in America is a hard subject. You only have to look at what is happening with the disproportionate police violence against black people to know that racism is still deeply ingrained in our culture. When Charlie emerged as a biracial character (meaning, I didn’t plan for him to be so but that’s what he was), it wasn’t so much hard to write him and his family, as daunting, only because I was afraid of unknowingly perpetuating stereotypes or racist attitudes. Dreamspinner Press has a Diversity Panel which will review manuscripts and I felt fortunate to have their feedback.
Renae: What about college life? How hard do you find it to write that?
CJane: I love writing about college life. I think it’s that “new adult” phase that I find interesting. It’s the period in life when people are having to discover who they are and what they want, and unlike most teens, have the freedom to do something about it. I like writing about their changing relationships with their families and their discoveries.
Renae: The blurb mentions “Pete” – is this Pete from the first novel in the Serpentine series? Serpentine Walls?
Renae: So when you wrote Serpentine Walls, did you always plan to write Jed’s story?
CJane: No. I didn’t plan ahead to write more in the series, but even before the end of Serpentine Walls I knew I wanted to write about Aidan Emery, the glamorous senior who is involved with the professor. I wanted to know why a guy like Aidan, who seemed to have everything going for him, ended up so damaged. That book became Aidan’s Journey. But people who read Serpentine Walls loved Jed and felt for him, and after I got Aidan out of my system, I decided to write his story.
Renae: Do we need to read the first books in the Serpentine series before this one?
CJane: Not necessarily. They’re stand-alone novels, although Serpentine Walls covers some of the same events from Pete’s point of view. Jed doesn’t even come into Aidan’s Journey at all.
Renae: In our 2014 interview, you mentioned two more books in the Serpentine series. Are these still going ahead? Can you tell us a bit about them?
CJane: The next book in the Serpentine series will be the story of Jed’s brother Kent and Kent’s college roommate Tucker. They are going off to Quantico to be in the military at the end of Sex, Love, and Videogames and neither one of them is identifying as gay. But they love each other deeply and so… we shall see!
Renae: And what are you working on now?
CJane: Two things. I am writing a third novella in the Wild and Precious universe on a young character that will be introduced in There You Are. And Dreamspinner just came out with a Harlequin-inspired imprint called Dreamspun Desires. I’m all over that! I’m plotting a cruise-ship romance of enemies to lovers.
Renae: I have to ask though – rugby? Is it a big thing in the US?
CJane: Ha ha, not really. I picked rugby as Jed’s sport while writing Serpentine Walls. I wanted him to be a jock of some sort, someone quite different from Pete who is more of an artsy type. I did Google to make sure U.Va. had a rugby team! But I have to confess, I know next to nothing about rugby so I was praying that I could skate by on some vague references!
Renae: I’ve googled some pictures of rugby (here in Western Australia, we tend to watch Aussie Rules over rugby – maybe I should change my mind...) Tell me, did you pin up pics of rugby players to get you in the mood. (You can tell me the truth **wink** Come on!)
CJane: Oh yes, that’s really why I picked it! Rugby players are fine!
Renae: Okay, okay. Tell us where we can find you on social media.
Renae: Thanks for joining me again today. Repeat customers are always the best. Thanks for the fun and I hope you have a great release.
CJane: Thanks so much, Renae! You ask the best questions. I always have fun answering them.