Robert Callinan is Noah’s English counterpart in the program. The men exchange not only their jobs, but also their homes, and it is what Noah stumbles across while staying at Robert’s house that sends him on a journey of self-discovery—both mentally and physically. A journey that puts color back into his life… just not in the way he expected. When the exchange program ends, Noah has to go home, but he doesn’t know if he wants to return to the life he left behind.
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Hi, Melissa, thanks for having me!
Hmm, a few short words about myself… let me see… I’m a Number 9, Cancerian, Wood Dragon, who generally prefers savory to sweet, believes cheese sauce should be declared a food group, but has a weakness for anything caramel, oh and choc-coated nuts!
On a serious note, I have a passion for writing and making art and my dream is to be able to spend my days doing both.
Thanks! It sounds like you have an interesting life. Now on to some personal questions. If you could go back in time to when you were seven years old, what wisdom or advice would you pass on to yourself?
This question is much tougher than it first appears. My life has been such a roller coaster, and I’ve learned so much, not only about myself, but also about my fellow man, that it’s hard to pick just one pearl of wisdom to pass onto my younger self.
I’m going to have to cheat a little and pass on two—Lily, you’re stronger than you think, and it’s okay to be a round peg. You don’t need to grow shoulders to fit into that square hole.
For what are you grateful?
This one is a no-brainer. My children. They are without a doubt my greatest creation and achievement, and the biggest blessing I’ve ever known.
I would have to agree with you. Children are quite an accomplishment. If a zombie virus took over the world, how many days do you think you could last before you were infected? And what would you do to postpone the inevitable?
Oh boy, do I fudge it or tell the truth???
I’d love to say I’d outsmart them and be the heroine that saves the world, but my sons would probably roll on the floor laughing at that response and tell you I’d be one of the first infected because I’m too trusting!
Hhm, how would I delay the inevitable? Maybe trot out my acting skills (as long as it doesn’t require any singing…) and pretend to be one of them. I can look a mess and snarl menacingly. I can do dumb and vacant—actually I do those things most mornings before my first caffeine hit of the day!
Coffee....coffee....mmmmm.....What television sitcom is most like your family? Why?
Despite the fact that Lorelei only has one daughter and I have two sons and a daughter, I’d have to say The Gilmore Girls. My kids are incredibly smart and we’ve always had a very honest and open relationship with each other. The banter flew thick and fast in our house too! Lucky I have a good sense of humor!
A sense of humor is important especially with raising children. My son has told me that I have to be careful because he gets to choose my nursing home. What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?
Read! I love to read. Maybe that’s why I like the rain so much—it gives me a great excuse to curl up in the corner of the couch, snuggled in a nice warm throw rug and lose myself in a story. After all, you can’t mow the lawn or hang out washing in the rain…
I think that all good writers love to read. It's like a balm to our souls. Let’s find out a little bit about you as an author. Did you always want to be an author?
No, I actually wanted to be an artist. I had romantic notions of moving to Paris and living in some tiny studio apartment. I saw myself sipping coffee in Montmartre or Saint Germain and having heated discussions about art with fellow practitioners. In truth, I felt I’d been born too late, that I should have been born in the late 1800’s because I so wanted to hang out with Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and van Gogh!
Having said that, I always loved books and I always loved to write. Many of my artworks incorporate text in them—words or phrases that move and inspire me. As a teen, I wrote a lot of short stories and poetry. Even as a young mum I wrote stories for my children, making them the characters.
It wasn’t until I hurt my neck and shoulder in a car accident and I couldn’t draw or sculpt for long hours any more that I gave my love of the written word more time. It didn’t take long, though, for it to become an obsession. Now I write everywhere! I even take a USB Voice Recorder with me on walks and dictate scenes!
I am jealous of your artistic talent. I have two left thumbs. What authors had an impact on you growing up and as an adult?
I SO want to say something intellectual like J.D. Salinger for his novel Catcher in the Rye, but if I’m being honest, I’d have to say Jean Plaidy—I’m a history nut and I loved how she took real historical figures and events and wove stories around them, making them ‘real’. I devoured her books as a teen.
J.K. Rowling was an inspiration as well, as much for her personal story as for the wonderful Harry Potter series.
And I mustn’t forget Ira Levin—many of his books, such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, and This Perfect Day freaked me out but I couldn’t put them down. Reading them was like watching a horror movie—you cover your eyes because you can’t bear to see the horror unfolding on the screen, but then you peek through your fingers because you can’t bear not to see it either.
So you are a horror movie fan too! Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?
Something liquid! I like to sip on something while I mull over a scene. It can be tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water or juice or even a nice glass of wine in the evenings. That’s when I quote Ernest Hemingway to myself! Write drunk; edit sober. Just kidding! I’m a cheap drunk so one glass is usually my limit.
What have you learned the most from being in the writing business?
To stay true to my characters and therefore myself. Don’t try to write for the audience because the audience will always be varied. The very thing one reader will love about your story will be the very same thing someone else will abhor about it.
You can’t control what emotional baggage, history, preferences etc. a reader will bring to the story which will color their perception of it, so, for me, that’s one of the best arguments in existence for writing for me and my characters.
That's wonderful advice! Tell us about your latest release:
Heart Knot Mine was published by Dreamspinner Press and released on 2nd May. Here’s the blurb and an excerpt as I think they will explain the story better than my waffling on!
DESPITE a successful college teaching career, Noah Daniels has become depressed. He feels he’s leading a monochromatic life: love has eluded him. When he’s offered a chance to teach in Londonas part of an exchange program, he accepts, hoping a change of scenery will do him good. But once he’s there, his outlook on love and sexuality changes in ways he never expected.
ROBERT Callinan is Noah’s English counterpart in the program. The men exchange not only their jobs, but also their homes, and it is what Noah stumbles across while staying at Robert’s house that sends him on a journey of self-discovery—both mentally and physically. A journey that puts color back into his life… just not in the way he expected. When the exchange program ends, Noah has to go home, but he doesn’t know if he wants to return to the life he left behind.
HEART KNOT MINE
Sitting with my ass parked on my favorite barstool, at my favorite bar—the Redhead Piano Bar onOntario—I nursed my bourbon and silently asked myself the usual questions. Well, actually, it was really only the one question phrased a hundred different ways. That’s what happened when you went the route of academia—you learned how to complicate the shit out of things and use fancy-schmancy words. If you thought about it, it was a bit ridiculous to be using three-plus-syllable words to ask a question, when most of us were usually seeking a simple one- or two-syllable word answer. Yes. No. And, if we’d really lucked out: maybe.
I snorted into my drink, remembering the words of my most admired college professor, Ross Whedon: Noah Daniels, how many times have I told you? An academic will always take a whole paragraph for what could have been said in one sentence. Christ, even my thoughts were long-winded.
What was my question again?
What the hell is wrong with me?
I mean, really, what the hell was wrong with me? She was gorgeous. Tall and willowy, with long, flowing mahogany hair that still managed to look sleek and glossy under the dim lights of the bar. Big brown eyes, clear skin, an impressive rack, and when she walked away from me, I saw she had a great peach-shaped ass.
That’s right, she walked away. Why?
Because I gave her the brush-off. That’s why.
Hence my question. What the hell is wrong with me?
She wasn’t irritating. Her voice didn’t grate. Quite the contrary. She was charming and friendly. In fact, I’d go so far as to say she was interesting and articulate—she was in PR. Surely that meant she could string together a sentence?—and yet, I’d passed on her not so subtle come-on. I looked at her again, knowing I could have her if I wanted her, but try as I might, I couldn’t muster even the slightest bit of enthusiasm for the idea.
And that was the problem.
Me and enthusiasm didn’t seem to be on speaking terms anymore. All the color had seeped out of my life. I was living a monochromatic, black-and-white photograph of a life where everything was a shade of tedious.
I wasn’t sure how it happened, or even when it happened.
It just had.
It crept up on me, like a slow-spreading parasitic vine, gradually sapping the vibrancy from my life. One day I woke up and everything was gray, dull, and lifeless.
And it had been that way for a while.
Lifting the glass, I paused, letting the bourbon wet my lips before throwing my head back and tossing down the last of my drink. Closing my eyes, I hissed, relishing the searing burn to my throat—a small reminder I was actually alive—a living, breathing, sentient being and not merely a walking, talking robot.
If only there was a whiskey burn for my emotions, I’d be set.
Glancing down at the aged cherrywood bar, I vaguely wondered what they used to achieve such a high polish. It was almost mirrorlike in its sheen. I could clearly see my face reflected upon its surface.
And instantly wished I hadn’t.
After grimacing at the shell staring back at me, I decided scrutinizing myself wasn’t such a good idea. Taking my own advice, I looked up, meeting Seth the bartender’s gaze. He raised his eyebrow at me in query, and I gave him a brief nod, watching as he poured me another finger of Booker’s.
As he slid it across to me, not a word was spoken. I nodded, he nodded, and we both went back to doing our own separate things—me to thinking, him to serving the other patrons. The opening notes of a melody from the piano situated at the opposite end of the dimly lit room, and the dulcet tones of Stella McClaren floated above the chatter of the Thursday-night crowd. They went quiet as she continued. I wasn’t surprised. She was good.
The start of the music was my alarm clock, telling me it must be eight o’clock. Time to head home to the never-ending pile of papers waiting to be graded.
Sighing at the thought of what awaited me, I took another sip of the amber fire in my glass and swirled it around my mouth before letting it seep, drop by drop, down the back of my throat. Once again, I said my silent thanks to the bourbon for serving a dual purpose: anesthetizing me while at the same time reminding me, with its burn, I was still alive and breathing. Quite an achievement.
Another sip, more swirling and the drip, drip, drip down my throat; then I motioned to Seth to tally up my tab.
The crowd was swelling—the live acts here were good—but I just wasn’t in the mood to be entertained. It was a sad state of affairs, I decided, that I preferred to be home alone reading essays than here being chatted up by a beautiful woman who probably wanted me to warm her bed as well, if her body language was to be believed.
I looked at her one last time as she mingled with her friends, long-legged and sexy in her tight black jeans and figure-hugging top, and mentally apologized to her. Though why I felt the need to apologize was beyond me. If she was anything like my previous bedmates, she’d have enjoyed being impaled on my cock had I chosen to share it with her.
They all enjoyed it because I could fuck them for hours. No problem with premature ejaculation here. No sirree. They thought it was because I had incredible control, like I was some sort of master cocksman or something, but the truth was a lot more humbling.
None of them excited me enough to get me off, and more and more, it all felt like too much hard work to even try.
It was one of life’s sweet ironies that the less interest I showed in them, the more they showed in me. Life could be cruel.
Once upon a time, I searched energetically for the Elizabeth to my Darcy, the Juliet to my Romeo, the Jane to my Rochester, but with each successive disappointment, my enthusiasm for the task waned. Now, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, I couldn’t even be bothered to get naked with them. Why make the effort when the act itself only left me feeling more empty and hollow than I had before performing it? When the supposed euphoric afterglow I was meant to experience left me feeling aching and raw… as if it were taking something away from me rather than filling me. Having sex, I decided, was like trying to fill a bottomless cup—both physically and emotionally. Really, what was all the fuss about? Why were men so obsessed with it?
I tossed the last of my liquid fire down my throat, pursing my lips at the heat that went all the way down to my belly, then pushed my empty glass away. After sliding off the barstool, I turned toward the cloakroom by the entrance, and with a final nod at my favorite bartender, bid him farewell. “’Night, Seth.”
Sounds like a great read! How did you decide on your story plot?
The inspiration for Heart Knot Mine came from the movie The Holiday starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. The plot is very different to the movie, but it was the film’s premise of swapping lives in order to escape unhappiness and hopefully find a fulfilling new direction through a change of scenery that sparked the idea in me.
I wrote the opening scene, shared above, the very next day, but then I left it alone for a while in order to allow Noah to develop in my mind. I need to get to know my characters because once we do know each other that knowledge often dictates the course of his/her journey through the story.
I love when ideas come from other sources. How did you choose your characters names and location for your story?
Oh dear. Um, I have to say the characters usually name themselves. For example: when I wrote the opening scene of Heart Knot Mine I left blank the main character’s name. From there I went to my old friend, Google, and searched names until Noah leapt out at me and said, that’s me!
As to the location, the premise of swapping jobs and lives chose them, well at least the countries!
I still struggle with names which is why I use my students' and friends' names. Do you have a favorite scene? Why?
This question is so hard to answer. I have several scenes that are special to me. Each for a different reason. For example, I like the ‘key’ scene because that’s when Noah’s world gets toppled on its ear, sending him on a journey of self-discovery. I also hold close to my heart the scene in the Rose Garden of Parc de Bagatelle because that gives us such an insight into Robert. And, of course, the final scene is special too…
Do you have a character that you identify with? Who and why?
God, Melissa, you keep asking these difficult questions! I’d love to say Noah because he’s so sincere, or Robert because he’s cool and sexy, but honesty dictates that I own up to being more closely aligned with Mrs. Higginbotham!
I love asking deep questions. :) Let our readers know how they can get a hold of you…
I can be found at any of the following:
Thank you for coming by! Is there anything else that you want to share… feel free!!
I’ll be at the UK GLBT Fiction Meet at Bristol from 6 – 8 June, 2014 and so if any readers are attending, please come up and say hi!
She’s both a left and right brain person, holding qualifications in both Finance and Fine Arts. She tells her friends that her way with numbers will make her a profitable artist and writer… one day.
Lily has always had a love of language and a beautifully crafted sentence, and admits to having a fetish for collecting quotes, poems, and song lyrics. What she won’t admit to is how many notebooks she’s filled with those quotes… Her fascination carries on into her artworks where she often incorporates text. When a shoulder injury slowed down her art practice she decided to explore her love of the written word more fully and began writing. “I’ll paint my pictures with words.”
Not that she’s abandoned artmaking in its entirety—Lily collaborates on the designs for all her book covers.
There are many things Lily loves, here are just a few of the PG rated ones: a good laugh (all the better if caused by a naughty joke), the smell of freshly baked goods and mown grass, a smile from a stranger, rainbows after the rain, and witnessing a promise kept.
Her latest book is the M/M Contemporary Romance, Heart Knot Mine.
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