Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chatting with C.C about Where He Ends and I Begin


Tell us a little about Where He Ends and I Begin?
Where He Ends and I Begin is a story about two friends who are interconnected on a deep and fundamental level. The book starts when the two friends end up in bed together and takes the reader through the change in their relationship and how they deal with it. The story is set in present day, but through the characters’ memories, we learn about various parts of their lives.
If I had to choose those standard book tags, I would say that there is some measure of gay for you in the sense that one of the main characters has never been with a man before the story begins. But we learn very early on that it wasn’t due to lack of desire.

What is the hardest scene you had to write in Where He Ends and I Begin?
Hmm. I had to think long and hard about this question. I think the most difficult scene I wrote in Where He Ends is the first sexual interaction between the characters. The reader sees that interaction from the perspective of each of the characters and it was critical to show how every touch was interpreted differently by Jake and Nate. This sets the stage for the rest of the book and demonstrates how different perspectives lead them to that point.

Tell us something about Jake and why will readers like him?
Jake is strong, both physically and emotionally. His affection and love for Nate truly know no bounds and he will do anything for his partner. For me, one of the most likeably aspects of Jake is how he deals with coming out. The story starts when Jake is a twenty-eight year old presumptively straight, womanizing, ex-football playing, police officer. Nate (and maybe some readers) expects those things to add up to a deep, dark closet. But Jake has no intention of hiding.

We got a glimpse of just how special the relationship between Jake and Nate is in He Completes Me. Are they based a couple you know? Why is their relationship so special?
There are certainly aspects of people I know in all of my characters. That said, Jake and Nate’s relationship itself isn’t based on any particular couple.

As for why Jake and Nate’s relationship is so special, I’d say it’s because of how interconnected they are. Jake says it best at one point in the book when he explains his feelings to Nate’s mother:

“You know, I’ve been with Nathaniel’s father since I was sixteen years old. He is the only man I’ve ever loved. And your mother was my best friend my entire life. We were inseparable, until she died. I never had a sister, but I do have my brothers, and we’ve always been very close. I guess that’s what comes from growing up in the same house, having a shared background. I always knew that you and Nathaniel loved each other, but I was never quite sure what kind of love it was— whether it was the way I felt toward my brothers, toward your mother, or toward Ted.”

She was peering at me with tears in her eyes, still clutching my arm. I knew she was holding something back, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Did she want me to explain how I felt about Nate? Did she need to be sure that I wouldn’t hurt him?

“I, umm, I don’t know how to respond to that, Mama C, because I don’t have another frame of reference. Nate is the only person that has ever fit any of those roles for me.” I gathered my thoughts and tried to put what I felt for Nate into words. “I guess what I’m saying is that I do love him like the closest thing to a sibling I’ve ever had, like my best friend all of my life, and like the only person I’ve ever been in love with. So, yes, it’s all of those things. But it’s also none of them.

“Somehow the intensity of having all of that love, all of those feelings, those desires wrapped up in one person… there just aren’t words to explain what I feel for him, what he means to me. But I can promise you that I won’t hurt him. He’s my whole world. I’ll always take care of him. You don’t have to worry.”

What was your first reaction when you got a glimpse of your cover art?
The cover for this book is my favorite of the series and it’s also the most important to me. Seeing the visual representation of the lifelong affection between these two characters tugged at my heart.

Your previous books are based on the purest love and are very emotional. Do you ever shed a tear when writing a scene?
If you feel that way about the last two books, I think you’ll see that the “emotional” measurement scale has to be recalibrated after reading Where He Ends. This book is, in my opinion, the most emotional story I’ve ever written (and that includes a couple of books that haven’t been released yet).

Crying isn’t my thing, so no, I don’t cry when I write and I don’t cry when read. Every once in a while something will get some teardrops going, but I find that it’s usually the news not a novel. For example, when I read President Obama’s statement about why the Justice Department will no longer be enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, I had to blink back some wetness.

Do you personally believe in Soul Mates?
Wow, what a hard question. I believe that we can be happy and connected in life with more than one person. A former colleague of mine proved that after her beloved husband passed away. They had been together since college and had two beautiful children. I saw the devastation when she lost him. And a couple of years later, I was fortunate enough to see the joy when she walked down the aisle with her now husband, whom she loves very much.

How do you choose which POV to write in?
POV is the first and most critical decision I make when writing a story. When I choose a POV, I think about what I want to convey in a story.

For example, in Home Again, I wanted to convey two distinct time periods and weave them together. I felt the best way to do that was to have each of the characters narrate one of the time periods. Also, I wanted readers to be confident in each of the character’s feelings for the other, but also to notice that something was off with Clark during the present day portion of the book. Because of that, Noah’s narration in present day couldn’t fully show Clark’s feelings. I tried to off-set that by having Clark narrate the past so readers could see his love for Noah.

In He Completes Me, I had a main character who had the potential to be very unlikeable. If I step back from the book and just look at what Zach did from a distance, I might be completely put off. Even more so if I had to read Aaron’s internal responses to some of Zach’s decisions. In light of that, I thought it was critical to write the story solely from Zach’s POV. This allowed the reader to get inside Zach’s skin and, I hope, truly like the man, despite (or maybe because of) his flaws. The danger with this approach is the reader can feel disengaged from the non-narrating character (Aaron). I worked hard to avoid that problem, but ultimately, I saw it as a calculated risk worth taking. I can tell you that Zach is one of my favorite characters and I think that’s because I spent a very long time in his head.

Where He Ends and I Begin had a different challenge. This story is about two men who are almost thirty years old, have been best friends all their lives, roommate for a decade, and have an incredibly tight connection. Yet each of them has been in love with the other the entire time without either of them being aware of that love. On its face, that sounds like a debilitating contradiction and I needed to make readers see how each of the men perceived certain situations in order for readers to understand how Nate and Jake had come to that point and how they’d work through it.

So instead of wanting to leave some mystery about one character’s feelings (like with Clark in the present day portion of Home Again) or to have distance from one of the character’s feelings/reactions (like with Aaron in He Completes Me), in Where He Ends, I needed readers to understand exactly what made both characters tick in the same scene. I did this by writing the story in both characters’ POVs and overlapping the scenes. So a reader will see a situation from one of the character’s perspectives and hear his thoughts and his responses to that situation. Then the reader will see that same situation again, but from the other character’s perspective.

I get nervous when I do something unorthodox with POV. One of the things I most worried about from a “how will a reader feel about this” perspective when I wrote Home Again was the shifting POVs and time periods. That same anxiety is back for Where He Ends. Fingers crossed that readers will enjoy it and not be put off by the different approach.

What makes a book great in your eyes?
I think there are different things that can make a book great. Sometimes I really enjoy a book because it makes me laugh or because the writer has a unique style that jumps out and grabs me. If I had to choose one thing, though, I think I would say the most important thing is feeling the connection between the characters.

If someone hasn't read any of your work, what book would you recommend they start with and why?
I intentionally write my books so they can be read in any order. The way I like to describe the Home Series is to say that when the series is over, a reader will be able to read a scene of all the characters together at brunch and feel like she’s sitting at the table with them and knows each of them because she has read their individual stories.

I keep a detailed timeline and character list and I intentionally write the stories so that the timelines of the books aren’t chronological by release date. That way a couple can be established in one book, but that couple’s story isn’t told until later (like Jake and Nate from Where He Ends) or the characters can be single in some books but together in another with their story being told after that (as is the case with David and Jonathan, the characters from Love at First Sight, which will be released later in the summer).

So the bottom line answer to your question, I would say pick up the book that sounds most interesting to you. These are independent novels and one doesn’t need to be read first to enjoy the others.

What are you working on now that your readers can look forward to in the future?
What I’m working on at this very moment is the next story in the Home series.

As far as what readers can look forward to in the future, Love at First Sight will be released in July or August. It’s about David (the realtor from He Completes Me) and Jonathan (a character you’ll meet in Where He Ends). It’s my first foray into third person POV.

I just finished writing my first paranormal (shape shifter) novel. It was challenging to write, but I’m thrilled with how it came out and I hope a publisher feels the same way (send positive vibes my way).

What are your goals for 2011?
My goals as a writer for 2011 are to find the time and the creativity to write stories that connect with readers and bring happiness to their lives. I’d like to see the paranormal story I just finished published and I’d like the opportunity to write another book in that series.

Where can readers find you on the web?

Thanks for spending a bit of time with me and answering my questions. Best wishes for your continued success. 

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