Lesfic Book Club: When You Least Expect It

For our January 2021 meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed When You Least Expect It by Haley Cass. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Haley Cass  4:00 PM


Reader 1  4:00 PM

Welcome, thanks for chatting with us!

Haley Cass  4:01 PM

Thanks for inviting me!

Reader 1  4:01 PM

What did everyone think of When You Least Expect It?

Reader 2  4:01 PM

Loved it.

Reader 3  4:02 PM

It was a favorite of 2020!

Reader 4  4:02 PM

Soooo good, sacrificed several hours of sleep to finish it. Totally worth it

Haley Cass  4:02 PM

I’m so glad you all enjoyed it!! I was nervous releasing it

Reader 5  4:03 PM

I loved it! I really liked how… natural… everything felt. Believable may be the word I’m looking for

Reader 4  4:03 PM

Yeah the pace was perfect

Reader 6  4:03 PM

I loved the book. What I loved most about it was that it never felt rushed and just unfolded beautifully.

And the slow burn, simmering away through all their interactions.

Haley Cass  4:05 PM

That’s really my favorite thing to hear. When I read, I want to experience a book unfolding and the characters bonding. I think my least favorite feeling in a romance as a reader is feeling like I missed out on development? So I think I focus on that (maybe… too much lol) when I write

Reader 5  4:05 PM

But even better… nothing felt dragged out either. Too many authors seem to… relish torturing me as a reader when things aren’t going so well with the couple, and I didn’t feel manipulated that way, either

(Or maybe that’s that I had to rush my reading, as my final book started in 2020 dragged out until yesterday, so I only had a couple of days to read this before today!)

Reader 7  4:06 PM

Great book! Loved the characters interactions, felt natural and little Abbie was great!

Haley Cass  4:06 PM

I only like to torture people when I feel like my characters have a reason to torture you

Reader 3  4:06 PM

I also loved the pining. Too few books have great pining.

Reader 4  4:07 PM

Ah yes, the Gay Yearning:tm:

Reader 6  4:07 PM

@Haley Cass I initially thought that Caroline was the hardass strong one, but then you gave Hannah the grit, strength and determination. Was that deliberate?

Haley Cass  8 minutes ago

This was a deliberate choice, yeah! I usually write with dual PoV (which is likely what you will see from me in the future), but since this was intended to be a novella, I only planned from Caroline’s PoV, and had to figure out Hannah and her journey early on so that I could portray it accurately via Caroline’s view.

The thing with Caroline is that she is very… take-charge in terms of what she wants, usually. But what she wants is to fall in love and have the whole family… she’s, inside, a soft mess. Whereas Hannah is so outwardly soft, I love the idea that people would easily think of her as the softer, more go-with-her-feelings one.

But when you take into account Hannah’s background and the life she’s lived… she has to have the grit to have powered through.

I think hard-exterior-with-soft-interior and seemingly-soft-exterior-with-determined-interior may be my favorite character trope to write, now that i’m really thinking about it

Reader 7 Today at 4:09 PM

@Haley Cass where did the idea for your story come from?

Haley Cass  5 minutes ago

I’ve actually had this idea of lawyer falls for her client (and adorable young daughter) in my back pocket for a while.

To be honest – I was once asked to imagine a spinoff kind of thing for my characters in Those Who Wait. Sutton and Charlotte have two daughters in their future, and a reader asked me what I imagined for their daughter’s futures. And in imagining this, I thought of a vague future for their oldest daughter being a lawyer. That was the first time the seeds of this story ever formed!

Reader 7  4 minutes ago

Awesome! Love that.

Reader 4  3 minutes ago

:heart_eyes: umm the fact that this storyline is vaguely existentially related to Those Who Wait endears it to me even more

Haley Cass  2 minutes ago

:slightly_smiling_face: I’m very happy to hear that! Yeah, Caroline and Hannah definitely took on a life of their own! But their development came from that little seed idea

Reader 8 Today at 4:09 PM

@Haley Cass what was your inspiration for the book?

Haley Cass  4 minutes ago

I answered how the little seeds of this story formed in the last reply! But I never fully developed them until Monica (McCallan, wonderful writer that she is) bet me that I couldn’t write a true love story in under 30k

and I was like, “yes I can!!!” And I thought… lawyer falling in love with her client. I can do that in 30k or less!

… I failed…

Sort of! Caroline was very much in love by 30k lol

Reader 5  3 minutes ago

This is the best sort of failure! Because we still got a great book out of it!

Reader 9 Today at 4:15 PM

Did you feel a lot of pressure for this book after your first one was such a hit?

Haley Cass  3 minutes ago


I really NEVER knew TWW was going to be such a hit? I could have never predicted that. The first two weeks after it came out, I cried actual tears thinking… well. That’s it. No one’s gonna read it.

I mean, granted, I published without advertising or knowing anything about publishing or anyone in publishing lol. But it really felt like. Wow.

Then I guess it started picking up steam and I was overwhelmed (in a good way) and blown away. But then I kept thinking… what if TWW was a fluke? How am I going to live up to that

I still feel that way tbh

Reader 1 Today at 4:18 PM

I loved that you took us through an entire year with Caroline and Hannah and the story touched on a lot of holidays, not just the typical ones. Did you see this as a holiday romance from the get-go?

Haley Cass  5 minutes ago

I always saw this as a holiday romance. I love traditional holiday romances! But I know myself and I knew that I would never be able to write my own version of a love story if I only had like the month of December to do it. I always knew it would have to start and end on Christmas

But as the length got away from me… I had to add in a lot more holidays on that calendar. I found a giant calendar that listed every single holiday, even smaller ones, and it stayed an open tab for me for about 2 months lol

Reader 6 Today at 4:20 PM

The great non-sex scene was the sexiest non-sex scene I’ve ever read! Was there ever a point in your head that it was actually going to happen at that point, or were you always writing that scene as a teaser?

Haley Cass  3 minutes ago

Oh, they were absolutely NEVER going to have sex at the lake house. I knew from the get go that it was going to happen the way it did.

When I was first talking to my developmental editor, I was trying to describe the scene in my head and I kept saying “it’s a sex scene but they aren’t having sex!” And she was like ???? So I just had to say, “You’ll see when we get there.”

I did wonder how far they were going to go, at times. But I always knew they were never going to actually touch one another there. Hannah wasn’t ready for that

Also I love those scenes where you JUST WANT THEM TO DO THE THING SO BADLY (whether it’s have sex or even just kiss) and then… they don’t. Love it

Reader 2  4:21 PM

I want to know at exactly what point did Hannah realize she was in trouble.

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago

I actually have a LOT of moments from Hannah’s PoV in my head (some will likely be written and sent out on my newsletter in the near future!)

But Hannah, as she reveals, truly understood what she was feeling for Caroline and the scope of their relationship after the near-kiss on Abbie’s birthday eve.

She didn’t give it any credence, though, as she clearly pushed it back down. She started really thinking “shit” and that it was a little more serious when Caroline went on her date. Mostly because Hannah was, inside, very thrown/sad/little jealous by this.

Coming from someone who has had a cheating spouse… well, she was literally married to someone cheating on her and for years, she hadn’t actually had a reaction other than anger/disrespect sort of feelings. But with Caroline – it was all there.

There’s a scene I had in my mind taking place in October, pre-lake house, where they go apple picking. And Hannah watches Caroline and Abbie from a few feet behind. They’re having their typical wonderful time together, Caroline is helping Abbie reach for apples and is also shaking the branches and making it harder for her at the same time. It’s a moment where it really weighs very, very heavily on her that she may be in love with Caroline. But also that she can never mess this relationship up.

Reader 5 Today at 4:26 PM

How did you decide to give Caroline and Abbie a friendship before Caroline took Hannah on as a client? I think that was such an unexpectedly sweet part of this book for me?

4 replies

Reader 4  8 minutes ago

Yesss, loved that little surprise

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago

There are multiple reasons to their pre-existing friendship for me!

I thought that they needed to have some established bond, given that Hannah is so protective of Abbie. I don’t think she would have allowed them to bond so easily/quickly, had there not already been something established between them.

Abbie plays such a big role in terms of Hannah and Caroline’s overall relationship and in the story in general, that I felt like – I didn’t want Caroline to ever seem like her relationship with Abbie was a result of her feelings for Hannah. I wanted it to be clear and known that she is that person. Who would see a kid stuck in the office on a Saturday afternoon and would put aside her work for a little while to make sure this kid knows she has somewhere to go.

I wanted them to have a bond, beyond Hannah

Reader 10 Today at 4:27 PM

Michael was very inspiring..for me to remain gay. :sweat_smile:

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago

LOL – same. also I realize I have such a trend of having my characters who have had relationships with men… not great men… but alas.

Reader 1 Today at 4:29 PM

What’s your favorite type of romance to read, as far as tropes, subgenres, etc?

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago


Slow burn, for sure. If I see that on any tag, I’m there for it.

Enemies to lovers is something I love to read, but have trouble writing. That appeals to me a lot. Ice queen type characters.

I like friends to lovers, but as a reader, I’m more… picky about them? God knows why, since it’s what I tend to write more.

I love a good fauxmance, too!

I’ll give most things a try, though there are some that are very touch and go for me. Books that feature more heavily on the plot than the romance or have the romance as less of the focus… eehhhhh

Reader 6 Today at 4:30 PM

Who are your favourite authors to read? Who do you admire?

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago

Taylor Jenkins Reid (not lesbian romance, technically, but she did write Evelyn Hugo!) is just like such a god tier writer to me. She can suck me into anything

EJ Noyes just has such amazing concepts? I wonder where they all come from and HOW does she do it?

Monica McCallan, I just love all of her romances and how prolific she is able to be in her writing. Also on a personal note of like… being on top of social media and stuff. Top Tier in terms of self publishing, that woman

Anna Burke and Kris Bryant, too.

Two of my favorite books have been written by people who don’t have many other books and like no social media presence but I so admire their writing. Riley Lashea’s Behind the Green Curtain and Debra Flores’s One Day You’ll Leave Me

Reader 10 Today at 4:33 PM

Did you always intend to indie publish?

2 replies

Reader 4  13 minutes ago

Ouuu great question, especially with all the aspiring authors on here

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago

God. Well. I had no idea in the beginning. I think there are merits to both self publishing and publishing with an actual publisher.

Ultimately for TWW, I didn’t want to have to submit my manuscript and then wait for months to hear back and possibly be rejected at the end of that wait. Plus, I figured there was a good chance a publisher would want me to cut a lot of material from TWW – and I’ve read reviews from some people who feel it’s too long. That’s their prerogative! – but I wasn’t willing to part with much of it. I already cut over 70/75k from it, and everything else, for me, was important.

I wanted to have the final say on what’s going to stay and what’s going to go. So that’s really what did it for me when I decided to go forward with TWW

Reader 1  3 minutes ago

You cut 70k from TWW? Ouch! In light of that experience, what editing advice would you give to new and aspiring authors?

Reader 4  < 1 minute ago

Am I the only one desperately curious to read the lost 70k words

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago

Lol YEP And it was very tough. I love those scenes still.

Mostly, the only thing I would advise to anyone writing their own book is what I tell myself. Write what you want to write. Write that scene you have that speaks to you. Write it all.

And when you have to go through and cut scenes or edit them… it might be tough, but I think it will give you a bigger picture of where you are and what you want to portray

Those lost 70k were mostly scenes with Regan (who may be my favorite character in TWW?) and a few with family members.

Oh and one sex scene. RIP

Reader 9 Today at 4:37 PM

Do you see yourself writing other genres eg sci-fi in the future?

Haley Cass  1 minute ago

I will let you in on a little secret about me…

I’m terrible at writing actual plot lol. Like. I just always want to be focused on my MCs and I like them having some side plots that relate to their careers or family or development. But you know, big overarching plots that have to do with a ton of other stuff… it’s not my forte

I have a story in mind that’s set in my own medieval like world that I REALLY want to write, but I struggle with “plotting” it, aside from the romance.

So… I won’t say never. But it’s not really my go-to

Reader 2 Today at 4:38 PM

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago

The hardest part for me came toward the end. I originally planned for it to be much shorter, which had a shorter, different ending.

But when I realized that wasn’t working, I had to sit down and re-plot September-December and figure out where they were going!

I also struggled with trying to make sure Hannah was fully actualized and that, by the end, she was really understood

Reader 9 Today at 4:54 PM

What’s next?

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago

This is my current struggle!

I have a wip that I have entirely planned out, with characters I love. A celebrity fauxmance type story, between an A-list actress and an inn owner. that i SHOULD keep working on.

But I’ve been really sucked into thoughts (and now, planning) of a medieval arranged marriage story.

I have to cut myself off before I ramble on about them. So… one of those tales will be next.

Reader 1  5:00 PM

We’re at the top of the hour already, all! Any more burning questions or heaps of praise for Haley? 🙂

Haley Cass  5:00 PM

Wow! That went by fast!!

Thank you all so much for having me here and the questions!

Reader 5  5:02 PM

Thank you for such great answers! (And a great book!)

Reader 2 Today at 5:03 PM

Uhm… would Caroline dress up as something Santa-like if Hannah dressed up as something naughty and Mrs. Clause-like for Christmas?

1 reply

Haley Cass  < 1 minute ago


Hannah would never dress up as a naughty Mrs. Claus, but Caroline would dress up as Santa

“for the CHILDREN”

and would grumble about it the entire time. But she’d probably have a lot of fun in the moment

Lesfic Book Club: Dare to Love

For our December 2020 meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Dare to Love by AL Brooks. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:02 PM

Heyyy, I’m here!

Reader 1  4:02 PM

Hello hello, thanks for joining us!

Normally what happens is Q&A format, and AL you can either respond right in the chat or you can hit the little ‘reply in thread’ button that looks like a speech bubble to thread your responses – either way works.

What did everyone think of Dare to Love?

Reader 2  4:04 PM

A MA ZING!! It was my first book and after that I just felt for the rest!

Reader 3  4:05 PM

I love it, it was really interesting the way Ash and Carmen blend in together being so so different

Reader 4  4:05 PM

I thought it was wonderful

Reader 6  4:05 PM

I really loved it, after foolishly thinking I wouldn’t enjoy it (based solely on the blurb and foolish ideas of my own)

Reader 2  4:05 PM

But I must confess my favorite so far is A Heart To Trust! :heart_eyes::heart_eyes: @A. L. Brooks (she/her)

Reader 4  4:06 PM

any tattooist has my heart

Reader 7  4:06 PM

I enjoyed it, even as I wanted to strangle Ash lol

Reader 8  4:06 PM

I obviously loved the main characters and overall plot lines but I also loved the depth the supporting characters brought and insight into the main characters.

Reader 5  4:06 PM

Is this the second or maybe more in a series. I feel like the actress and Maggie have a story somewhere??

Reader 9  4:06 PM

I realized there was a book before this one so I just had to buy it so I can read all about Tamsyn and Maggie and find out how they got together. Dare to Love was great by the way.

Reader 5  4:07 PM

That’s her name, Tamsyn!

Reader 3  4:07 PM

I loved the Sophie side story part of the book

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:08 PM

I love that you all are so positive about the book – thanks! And yes, in response to a couple of comments so far, secondary characters are really important to me in all my books. My MCs usually have that one great friend, or family member, who’s vital to their story. Sophie’s story was a given from the minute I started plotting, for example

Reader 9  4:09 PM

I’m curious, did the name Ash come first and then the idea of the phoenix rising from the ashes, or was it the other way around?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:09 PM

The name came first, yes! Then the idea for the tattoo and back story followed about 30 seconds later :joy:

Reader 5  4:10 PM

How many tattoos have you got?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:11 PM

I have 8

Reader 9  4:11 PM

Did you have to do a lot of research for this book?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:12 PM

The main focus of my research was finding stories of women who, like Carmen, suddenly had an attraction for a woman fairly late in their lives. It was very interesting reading!

I also needed to update my tattoo knowledge – it’s been a few years since I had my last one, so I just needed to make sure I was up to date with the hygiene rules etc

Reader 8  4:13 PM

Not being a writer but being an avid googler what does one google when that is what you are researching? I imagine you would find a lot you need to weed through to find the good stories.

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  29 minutes ago

Yeah, that does make it hard, or maybe frustrating is more the correct word. The kinds of crap you are faced with when you’re trying to get to the nitty-gritty of an issue is maddening sometimes

I have to gear myself up for research days, where I know I’m just going to have to keep on pushing through, trying all sorts of variations on a theme to get the articles/posts I want

Reader 8  27 minutes ago

Wow, such a process but such a wonderful result, we benefited for sure! I imagine your filing cabinet of sorts is bursting and you have stories for days of the things you have found. Not at all what I think people imagine when thinking about writing.

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  22 minutes ago

Oh yeah, I have so many ideas for future books!

Reader 3  4:13 PM

What about the pastry they were obssesed? I was craving it the entire book lol

Reader 5  4:13 PM

You should have just got another one to aid your research!

What’s the difference between those ones and a normal one?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:15 PM

Yeah, the pastries came from a trip my g/f and I took to Portugal in 2017. I mean, I’d had them before, but not direct from the source, so to speak. I LOVED them, so I had to build them into a book sometime

Reader 1  4:16 PM

Ash and Carmen complemented each other so perfectly – which character came first, or were you initially inspired by some other element of the story?

Reader 9  4:18 PM

If Ash’s symbol is the phoenix, what would Carmen’s symbol be, if she were given one?

Reader 5  4:19 PM

Have you ever really loved a certain part of your story, only to have your editor get a red pen and rule thru it saying oh this bits not needed or something similar?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:20 PM

In answer to Reader 1’s question, Carmen came first, as she was a side character in Write Your Own Script, but literally the minute I started thinking about her having her own story, the idea of Ash popped into my head. Like, what is the ‘worst’ scenario Carmen could face if she’s attracted to a woman (and an out lesbian at that) for the first time. Oh yeah, a woman who’s sworn off ‘curious’ women. Mean, I know, but…

Reader 9, I think Carmen would be a lioness. Quietly strong, very protective of her friends/family

Reader 5 – all the time!!! It happens with every book. But I always make a point of keeping the chunks the editor is adamant should go, because you never know when the opportunity might come up to make a short story out of it

Reader 8  21 minutes ago

Novice non writer question here be warned…are you allowed to release anything, short stories, novellas, etc… not published by your publisher? So if your editor or people said no I hate this bit could you take it and release that piece on your own bc you loved it?

I feel saddened for all the bits of stories in dark corners across the globe.

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  20 minutes ago

We definitely have freedom to release other stuff, especially short stories. I have a couple of free short stories up on my website, and I’m sure I’ll add more, and probably from bits I’ve left out of previous books

I have a question for the readers – favourite character, Carmen or Ash? Or someone else?!

Reader 4  4:27 PM


Reader 5  4:27 PM


Reader 2  4:27 PM


Reader 3  4:27 PM


Reader 7  4:27 PM

Depends on the situation

Reader 10  4:27 PM


Reader 6  4:28 PM

For me, Carmen… especially as somebody who came out (trans, in my case) later in life, so I could identify in some ways with her

Reader 9  4:28 PM

Hmmm… I’d have to think on it a bit I think.

I like each one, but for different reasons.

Reader 1  4:28 PM

I think I’m going Ash for somebody I’d want to hang out with or date, and Carmen whose struggles I relate to more

Reader 9  4:29 PM

I like them both, but I guess I like them both together better.

If you could throw your characters into another world, for whatever reason, what kind of world would it be? Something general like sci-fi, fantasy, superhero or other? Or something more specific like the Ghostbusters, Lord of the Rings or some other world?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:32 PM

Reader 9, that’s an awesome question! I’m already imagining Ash as some kind of butch superhero. Maybe with Carmen as the mysterious woman she has to rescue, only to discover Carmen is quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much

Reader 5  4:33 PM

Are you a panster or the other one?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:34 PM

Haha, I’m an in-between! I have a vague, sort of overall plot, but I don’t flesh out too much detail beforehand. I have kind of 3 or 4 key scenes/situations I know I want to put my characters into, and then I start writing and see how we get there. Sometimes it works really well and quickly, other times it takes a little longer

Reader 5  4:34 PM

Thanks for understanding my question! :joy:

Do you read your reviews?

Reader 8  4:36 PM

Wait! So there are only 3 or 4 key scenarios and all the rest were building blocks to the key ones? I feel like so much more was key. I think I passed more key in the first 20%.

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:37 PM

Sometimes… I do find it hard to take some of the negative ones, when they’re not that constructive, e.g. “I hate this book, she’s not a good writer.” Those make me wince. So I’m selective. When a book first comes out, I don’t read any of them – my g/f does and lets me know in very general terms if the new book is being received well or not. If it is, then I might start reading reviews as they come in

Reader 5  4:37 PM

Who is your favourite lesfic author?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:38 PM

Reader 8, yeah, it sounds crazy but that’s just how my brain works. And yes, it does mean I end up with more ‘key’ moments than I first ‘planned’, but the inspiration just hits me as I write the characters and their story together develops

Reader 8  8 minutes ago

Got it! So you start with less and end with more. I thought you didn’t consider the rest key.

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  7 minutes ago

No, that’s the joy of being a pantser – key stuff kind of miraculously appears as you go along, haha!

Reader 5, it’s hard to answer that one! I have so many :joy:. But to name a few: Jae, Clare Ashton, KJ – they’re currently the authors whose books I would read as soon as they publish them, probably without even reading the blurb

Reader 7  4:41 PM

Definitely good ones

It’s always interesting to see what style of books writers enjoy, especially compared to what they write.

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:42 PM

It is! Like, I love Fletcher Delancey’s books, and many other sci fi/fantasy writers, but could never write that genre myself

Or at least I don’t think so

Reader 7  4:43 PM

What do you have in your writing queue?

Reader 5  4:44 PM

Do you have set working hours? Or do you just try and do ‘some’ writing everyday? Also how do you keep motivated with the shit British weather?

Reader 4  4:45 PM

And the shit pandemic

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:45 PM

Reader 7, I just finished writing my next novel, titled Chasing Dreams, and that’s now with my editor, and will be out next October. Next up (and this is a world exclusive, folks!) I’m working on a sequel to my debut, The Club, which my publisher is keen to take a look at, so let’s see if that makes it out to the world sometime…

Reader 5  4:45 PM

Next October :scream::scream: why so long if it’s written?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  < 1 minute ago

Because we go through lots of editing and proof-reading before it’s published, and that all takes time and scheduling around the editors’ own deadlines… sorry!

Reader 5, I’m no longer in the UK, I’ve lived in Germany since the start of 2019 so I don’t have to worry about the British weather any more, just the German weather, haha! And no, I don’t have set writing hours – I work full time at a day job, so I have to just fit my writing around that. So mostly at weekends really

Reader 5  4:47 PM

Is that why it’s October for publishing? To give you time to do the edits etc?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:48 PM

Reader 4, yeah the pandemic has been hard for the creativity, that’s for sure :unamused:

Reader 1  4:48 PM

Just kind of a general trad pub question… do you just keep going back and forth with your editor until you both feel it’s done, or do you know how the revision process is going to go in advance?

Reader 7  4:49 PM

And do you use the same editor with each book?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:49 PM

Reader 1, we have a set timeframe for edits, i.e. a date by which it has to be done, but during that timeframe we might do 3 or maybe 4 ‘passes’ of her and me working through it to fine tune it to a point where we’re both happy

Reader 7, not necessarily – Ylva has a pool of editors on hand, so sometimes I get someone I’ve worked with before, sometimes it’s someone new

Reader 6  4:51 PM

If you were sitting at a table with your favorite actress and your favorite author, who would you be sitting with?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:52 PM

Reader 6, I’d be dining with Gillian Anderson and probably Jae if you made me really, really, really pick one favourite author

Reader 5  4:53 PM

It’d be ice cream then. I heard Jae eats nothing but :joy:

Reader 1  4:53 PM

You’re in Germany so this could be a reality… do you and Jae hang out?

Reader 8  4:53 PM

I’ve noticed that at least a handful of writers have a pen name that they write under for books of a different style or genre subtype. Is that ever something you would consider to try out mixing genres like sci/fi in to test yourself out?  What would your sci/fi fantasy pen name be?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:54 PM

I’ve actually had lunch with Jae since I’ve lived here, so I can confirm she does eat more than ice cream – I believe it was spetzle with cheese followed by cake :joy:

Reader 8, it’s definitely something I would consider if I had more time to write, i.e. no day job so I could write in more than one genre

@Reader 5 No, this is my real name, just with initials instead of my first name :grimacing:

Reader 8  4:56 PM

Copy. So win lottery. Come up with pen name for second genre. Write.

Reader 2  4:58 PM

What is your day job if you don’t mind me asking?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  4:59 PM

I don’t mind at all! I work in corporate financial systems. So, I’m part of a support team for my company for one of their budgeting systems. We help people when the system doesn’t quite do what they want, or if they’re new to the company and need to know how to use it

Reader 8  5:01 PM

So do you view writing as work or as an escape?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  5:01 PM

Oh definitely escape!

Reader 8  5:03 PM

If it ever started feeling like a chore what would you do? Reevaluate the topics you were writing? Step away? I’m sure the two things together can get to be consuming.

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  5:04 PM

I would step away. In that respect I’m lucky I have a day job, so writing isn’t my main income and therefore I would have the luxury of being able to take a break. Luckily, that feeling hasn’t happened yet though!

Reader 5  5:05 PM

Do you speak good German now? This question is so eloquently phrased it’s obvious I can’t even speak good English

Reader 1  5:05 PM

Elizabeth Gilbert said something along the lines of “never ask your passion to pay your bills” in Big Magic. Setting aside the fact that a lot of authors disregard that, I think it’s good advice

Reader 4  5:06 PM

Do you ever think it could become your main income?

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  5:07 PM

Reader 4, I’d love it to be so, but I think it will only happen once I retire from the day job, when I have a pension and can supplement it with the writing

Reader 5 Today at 5:05 PM

Do you speak good German now? This question is so eloquently phrased it’s obvious I can’t even speak good English

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  1 minute ago

Unfortunately not yet! I can do everyday stuff, but proper conversation with a group of people about all sorts of topics, no

Reader 1  5:08 PM

We’re a little past the top of the hour… any more questions for AL, everybody?

Reader 8  5:08 PM

Not from me. Thank you so much!

Reader 5  5:09 PM

Thank you for your time tonight

A. L. Brooks (she/her)  5:09 PM

It was my pleasure! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, and I’m glad Carmen and Ash’s story was so loved

Lesfic Book Club: Finding Jessica Lambert

For our November meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Finding Jessica Lambert by Clare Ashton. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Clare Ashton  4:08 PM

Evening! Afternoon! I’m here

Reader 1  4:09 PM

So, what did everyone think of Finding Jessica Lambert?

Reader 2  4:10 PM

I read a review of the book that said, ‘Read and be thrilled’. How does it feel when you get a review like that?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Amazing! It’s weird working away and being immersed for months alone in a book not knowing what on earth people will make of it, so it’s a huge relief if it hits a few good reviews when it comes out!

Reader 3  4:10 PM

Ms Ashton, I loved the Bond girl bit

Reader 4  4:11 PM

I absolutely loved The book!!! 🥰🥰 It drew me in from the first 2 chapters and I couldn’t put it down

Clare Ashton

That’s great to hear! :blush::blush::blush: I was hoping the first chapters would pull people in with wondering with who the characters were and hopefully feeling a nice connection between them immediately.

Reader 4  6 days ago

I loved how they did thoughts but not knowing the others name yet… It was brilliant

Reader 5  6 days ago

It absolutely got me curious from the start and really holds your attention as you progress through it and discover more about the characters. The pace is awesome and development of the characters just right.

Reader 6  4:12 PM

Loved the story and the connection between Jess and Anna!!

Reader 2  4:13 PM

The kiss watching the fireworks was magical followed by such a beautiful love scene, the culmination of simmering attraction. Their actions were clumsy and realistic. This is my first read of yours, so is this a typical Ashton feature?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

:heart: I definitely wanted that scene to be realistically tentative and clumsy but passionate.

I hope all my books have that element of realism even if the characters are sometimes initially glamorous or different.

Reader 7  4:14 PM

I don’t know that I’ve read another book where I’ve so strongly identified with BOTH of the main characters. I often will identify with one, but both Jess and Anna felt like they could be me… well, except for the acting on stage thing (but since I’ve worked as a musician, even that had some of those performance parallels)

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

I’ve heard a few people say this. Perhaps it’s because both are running away in some sense and help each other rather than one being the big strong heroine.

Reader 5  6 days ago

It’s funny that’s how you put it bc I really enjoyed the equal draw both characters had and that there wasn’t the typical hero and one needing saving. It was so realistic.

Reader 2  6 days ago

Yes, they are leaning on eachother. There’s an ebb and flow of support that makes it more realistic.

Reader 7  6 days ago

I can see that. I think in my case, I recognized their experiences of anxiety and some of them felt way too much like me. My life isn’t nearly as limited as Anna’s was at the beginning of the book, but there are significant ways in which I’ve arranged my life to avoid bumping into anxiety quite as readily and I think it took seeing things from her perspective to realize that as clearly about myself

Reader 4  4:14 PM

Yes the connection from the beginning was amazing. I wanted to cry when Anna heard Jess on the radio :sob::sob: it broke me when they were apart and the scene between them when Anna came face to face with Jess was so emotional and it was like that part was made for them when they “practiced” together

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

I actually got nervous before writing the stage confrontation scenes! Hands actually shook a little. They really had to work and I didn’t know if I was going to pull it off. It was quite strange! Never had nerves like that before

Reader 8  6 days ago

Well, I can say that you pulled it off quite well.

Reader 4  6 days ago

I can see that. It was a very emotional part. Anna avoided Jess up til that part not knowing why so to come face to face with the person that has become your, basically hope for the future… It can be very daunting. With that being said… It’s one of my favorite scenes in the entire book!!!

Reader 3  4:15 PM

I loved all the secondary characters, they brought so much to the book

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

I love writing secondary characters as much as the heroines. I love having a mix so that they bring different sides of the main character’s personalities out. You see a different side to Anna with Pen for example and again with her mother.

Reader 9  6 days ago

I often read your books and wonder how much of the secondary characters you plan ahead and how much you invent as you go through the story?!

Reader 4  6 days ago

Yes I wanted to slap her mother! And Pen too when she recognized Jess and that convo I wanted to slap her… But otherwise I loved Pen. She was a firecracker for sure

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

I have a rough idea about secondary characters and their personality – I plot in a fair amount of detail – but the fun is really bringing them to life in the first draft

Reader 6  4:16 PM

Where did your inspiration for the story come from?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Inspiration for Jess came from seeing a photo of popstar Rhianna inside a car with fans’ hands pressed against the car windows outside. The picture is take from inside the car and I thought it looked terrifying! Then I thought actually a mega star who is unsuited to the attention would be a great character!

Reader 4  4:17 PM

I had a stalker so I really related to Anna and I couldn’t imagine being as famous as Jess. I couldn’t handle the exposure like that.

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

I couldn’t handle that either. I had a much less serious case than Anna once and it gave me a glimpse of how life changing it could be. Hope all’s well for you now

Reader 2  4:21 PM

Did you have fun thinking about the Atlassia franchise? Are you a fan of those sorts of movies? Or Dr. Who, Star Trek etc? Rose or Martha?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

It was fun! Yes definitely a fan of some of the Star Trek series (the recent ones most of all), Star Wars, and others. And Rose or Martha – loved them both.

Reader 6  4:29 PM

Did you plot this story out?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

I’m definitely a plotter – some of my books have more than the usual two main characters and can get quite complicated! I had a decent outline for FJL but had to feel my way through more with this one though. I wanted to go in deep with the characters and their relationship this time.

Reader 4  4:29 PM

Have you ever thought of making a sequel???

Or even a prequel for Anna before her stalker?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Initially I had a series in mind with this as the middle book! I’m such a slow writer though I skipped to the one I wanted to write most!

Reader 2  4:39 PM

When writing the characters do you have a picture in your head of how they look? Who would play them in a movie?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Yes, very much so. A couple characters have been inspired partly by actors but they never end up looking or sounding the same as the initial inspiration. Lots of elements go into the mix and I love that magic moment when they become a distinct and real person

Reader 8  4:39 PM

Have you ever thought of writing the whole Atlassia story into a series of books? Would you ever make them into a TV series or series of movies?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

I would love to write all these things, but I’m much too slow a writer!

Reader 9  4:48 PM

How do you know when you’ve run the distance on a story and when there might be more, such as a sequel? I find myself wanting more when a story like finding JL finishes- do you feel the same about writing it or do you like to leave it be?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

When I’m writing I like to leave the story with an uplifting ending and reassurance that everything will be ok but with enough wriggle room for the reader to imagine for themselves the future. This isn’t always a popular approach! Some readers love epilogues! Personally, I’m not so keen on epilogues (I want the story to end with a bang, so to speak). That’s unless the epilogue has a little outstanding detail that I’m dying to know!

Reader 2  4:52 PM

The canal walk and Anna’s mini realisation. So beautifully written

Reader 8  4:53 PM

Another great question would be if Jessica and Anna had a pet dragon, who would feed it and who would clean up after it? Who would take it for “walks”?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Bibs would come round to play with the pet dragon!

Reader 4  4:54 PM

Anna would feed it of course and Jessica would walk it! 🙂 They both equally clean up after it haha

Reader 10  4:58 PM

How do you feel your writing style has changed over time?  Is there a subject that you want to write about?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Great question about the writing style and I don’t know! I vary the style for each book so it’s difficult to tell. Hopefully I have better range at least than when I first started

Reader 4  5:01 PM

What’s your favorite part about writing?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Dreaming up scenes and when I’m immersed in the story and characters deeply enough for snippets of dialogue to almost write themselves. It’s very vivid.

Reader 4  6 days ago

I love that. I’m a very virtual reader. When it’s a really good book I can always see it playing like a movie in my head!

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Me too! I love getting lost in a book with it all playing out.

Reader 2  5:03 PM

Having only read this book, which of yours should I read next?

Clare Ashton  6 days ago

Poppy Jenkins is my most popular book as a sunny romance (but always with a touch of angst). It’s set in mid Wales where I grew up so I have a soft spot for it :slightly_smiling_face: I adored writing The Goodmans – ensemble cast with humour and angst. I love writing family drama so that one is always a candidate for my favourite

Reader 3  5:06 PM

Poppy Jenkins, After Mrs. Hamilton, any one will be enjoyable

Reader 3  5:08 PM

Thank you, Clare Ashton…..for your clever mind and great reads. Looking forward to more.

Reader 4  5:09 PM

Thank You Clare and I’m looking forward to hopefully more from these amazing characters in the future! You would make alot of people happy! 🥰🥰

Reader 2  5:09 PM

Thanks Clare for a wonderful read and looking forward to discovering your other books.

Clare Ashton  5:10 PM

Thank you everyone! For reading the book and the great questions!

Lesfic Book Club: Media Darling

For our September meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Media Darling by Fiona Riley. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Reader 1

Book club time everyone!

Reader 2  4:02 PM

Before I dig through my brain for questions, I want to say I loved the book.

Reader 3  4:04 PM

Well, let’s get to the most important question: What was your inspiration for Stan?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Ha! There was an old carved wooden moose at my first summer camp. That Stan is a real stiff

Reader 5  5 days ago

Was it named Stan at summer camp?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

No! I actually don’t know if it was ever named, I’m sure probably. And it might have also been a few animals…I feel like there was also a life-sized carved eagle.

Reader 4  4:04 PM

Do you have a background in film?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

I do not. But my very good friend is involved with video development and works on film editing, so that helped with some of my research

Reader 5  4:05 PM

I kept waiting for their relationship to be leaked to Hayley’s boss.

Have you thought about writing films? Or are you happy with novels?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

I would love the chance to screen write someday.

Reader 4  4:07 PM

Did you always intend for there to be two baddies or did the book take you that way as you write it?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Depends on which two baddies you are talking about….

If you meant Rachel and Drake, then yes. There was always two evils to this mix

Reader 4  5 days ago

Rachel obviously and aw you’re gonna make me feel an idiot now but the newspaper pap that was behind all the stalking

Drake, that’s him.

Sorry, I read and loved the book but I have bad memory problems. I’m so sorry

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

No worries. Some people have opinions about the sister as well.

Reader 4  5 days ago

I didn’t get that vibe from the book. Not really but I can now see she could have been portrayed as selfish

Reader 5  5 days ago

Since this relates to my question, I’ve done quite a bit of research into adoption. The sister was doing what was necessary to protect her kid. I didn’t see her as selfish at all. They handled the situation well from my perspective.

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Thanks. I agree

Reader 6  4:09 PM

Where did your story idea come from?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Social media and it’s distortion of reality. I watched as celebrities left their “lanes” and ventured into politics and criticisms, and I wondered more about what happened off the Instagram page, etc. There had to be someone at the center of the celebrity persona, right? I wanted to know more about her. And in my mind, she was Emerson.

Reader 6  5 days ago

I enjoyed the story, very interesting and engaging!

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Also, I had promised a fellow author I would beat her to a secret baby story and this was it

Reader 1  4:12 PM

What was the hardest part of this book for you to write (or to research)?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

The film industry stuff. Learning about the voice-overs and film productions schedules and timing. That was a lot of moving pieces to reign in.

Reader 5  4:12 PM

Yeah, let’s talk about the adoption storyline.

Was that difficult to write/research?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Not difficult to research or write specifically. More I had trouble making sure I could emotionally charge the characters to grapple with the storyline. A child is not a tool or an accessory, and that needs to be highlighted. Emerson truly did what she thought was best for her daughter, and in the end, that decision was the right one.

Reader 5  5 days ago


Reader 1  5 days ago

Same – that’s a situation that can easily become ugly or in fiction, drama for drama’s sake, but everybody was mature and did what was best for the kid. It was heartwrenching and well-done

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Thank you. I don’t think anyone wants to be in the position to make those kinds of decisions, but Emerson was fortunate enough to have a stable and loving sister who could help her figure out an impossible impasse

Reader 5  5 days ago

And a lot of families make those choices.

Reader 6  4:15 PM

How do you decide on your character names?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Emerson is a fav of mine and as it relates to the story, it meshed well with her family’s backstory and the development of her secret literary persona. And Hayley i just think is cute

Reader 4  4:15 PM

Do you plot your books or are you a panster?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

I’m a full-fledged plotter. I map out the entire book before I start writing.

Reader 1  5 days ago

Follow-up in that case, are you a paper, index cards, highlighters kind of plotter, or do you do it digitally?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Everything I do is digital. My handwriting is atrocious. I sometimes take side notes on paper, but rarely

Reader 3  4:16 PM

I’m also interested in Emerson’s fear on take-off… is that an anxiety of yours or somebody you know? I liked how well Hayley put Emerson’s focus elsewhere in those moments, without Emerson realizing until later what she had done!

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

That’s the sign of a soulmate, in my opinion. Someone who can distract you from your greatest fear by just being themselves.

I personally don’t suffer from a fear of flying, but I have MANY friends that do.

Reader 3  5 days ago

I agree! My wife is the only reason I’m able to face as much as I do and I would be lost without her!

Reader 5  4:20 PM

So if you were to write a movie, would you want to adapt one of your novels or write something completely new?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

I’d probably try to adapt one of my existing works

I think the Perfect Match Series would make a great television series since it follows so many characters who are interconnected.

In regards to a movie, I think my newest, Bet Against Me, would make a fun one.

Reader 1  5 days ago

Do you have celebrities or other types of look-alikes in mind when you’re figuring out your characters?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Sometimes, but not always. Emerson’s doppelganger is Angelina Jolie, which was mentioned in the story.

Reader 5  4:24 PM

Do you tend to come up with story ideas on your own, or do you brainstorm with people?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

I usually come up with them on my own, but will often bounce them of others to develop them further.

Reader 2  4:25 PM

What was the part you enjoyed writing the most?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

The interview scene on the balcony. And the food scene at the hotel. Those are tied.

Reader 6  4:25 PM

What inspires you when you write?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Seeing HEA in the queer community. Being able to see my life on the page. Representation matters to me- I want more queer love stories with happy endings, I needed those when I was younger.

Reader 3  4:26 PM

I loved the place in Maine… two questions which you might answer together or separately, depending on how connected the answers are…

Did you have a specific place in mind that inspired the place in Maine? and

2. Is there a sort of haven-place like that for you? And what is it like?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

No specific place, no. But I will say that this book club is timely…I just revisited that Maine cabin (sort of) in my next book Bet the Farm. You’ll even see Emerson and Hayley again.

2. I love the beach. I retreat to it often- it’s my happy place.

(I’ll be writing a beach based romance next).

Reader 1  4:29 PM

Who are some of your favorite authors, lesfic or otherwise?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Glennon Doyle, Mary Higgins Clarke, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, Chris Colfer, Agatha Christie

Reader 5  5 days ago

quite varied

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

I’m a unicorn. It’s part of my charm

Reader 1  5 days ago

Mystery fan for sure though. Do you have any plans to write one of your own?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

I read only mystery and thrillers for most of my young adult life. No plans to adopt the genre myself, but it’s my favorite place to retreat to.

But I read a lot of lesfic now, I like the escapism.

Reader 2  5 days ago

Do you read much fantasy or sci-fi lesfic?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

I don’t but I do love Barbara Wright and I’m certainly open to more

Reader 6  4:32 PM

When is your favorite time of day to write?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Whenever my kids are asleep

Reader 5  5 days ago

How old are your kids?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

3.5 and 1.5

Reader 1  4:35 PM

Do you have a favorite couple from all your books?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Samantha and Lucinda will probably always be my favs (don’t tell the others!), but I love Emerson and Hayley and I’m very partial to Trina and Kendall in my newest book, Bet Against Me.

Reader 2  4:38 PM

If all your characters were suddenly recruited to become vampire slayers, which couple would be the best at it and which the worst?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Samantha and Lucinda from Miss Match, for sure. Though Trina and Kendall from Bet Against Me are viciously competitive.

Also, this is an awesome question. Thank you!

Reader 3  4:38 PM

I don’t really have a question about this, but one of my favorite things about Emerson was the children’s books and I almost died of cute squee when the girl approached her on the plane!

Reader 5  4:39 PM

Yes! That was truly the best reveal

Fiona Riley  4:42 PM

Do you all meet every Sunday? And how do you decide on the book/author?

Reader 2  4:42 PM

One Sunday a month usually.

Reader 5  4:42 PM

we vote on author first, then what book

Reader 1  4:44 PM

Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on right now, Fiona?

Fiona Riley  5 days ago

Sure! I just finished the second book in my High Stakes Romance series- Bet the Farm. It will be out in the Spring 2021. My most recent release, Bet Against Me, came out Sept 2020 and I’m about to dive into the third and final book of the series- Beginner’s Bet. due fall 2021

Bet the Farm takes place in Maine at Boudreaux’s dairy farm… sound familiar?????

You get to meet the entire Boudreaux family and learn all about that whipped cream that Hayley loves so much.

The book features luxury realty and dairy farm living. It’s quite the combination

Reader 5  4:52 PM

Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

Fiona Riley  4:52 PM

Thank you for having me!

Check out Bet the Farm if you want to see Hayley and Emerson again 🙂

Lesfic Book Club: Turbulence

For our August meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Turbulence by EJ Noyes. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Reader 1 Aug 23rd at 4:02 PM

@E. J. Noyes – I love Turbulence! Any plans for another book in that “world”?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Probably not, much as I adore Isabelle and Audrey. Mostly because I just can’t think of where to take them next and I have a million other projects to do.

In my list of “want to writes” I do have a vague note – Audrey plane crash – ew.

Reader 1  4 days ago

Oh no haha! I’ll look forward to whatever you come out with next.

Reader 2 Aug 23rd at 4:03 PM

@E. J. Noyes I loved Turbulence as well!  Really all your books…  Have read almost all  of them several times (the latest only once so far).  Did you want to leave us with the feeling that Mark was on the up and up or should we think that he was honest, just tired of working?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago


I always felt he was just sick of it all, and also jealous that Is is suck a bloody rockstar.

Originally when I started it I had him involved with embezzling etc but it got too complicated for my brain and felt like something Isabelle really would have noticed. The softer version felt like something he could slip through.

I would have like to do more with him, but felt it took too much away from the core story.

Reader 2  4 days ago

@E. J. Noyes yeah that makes sense.  I got the feeling you wanted to go the embezzlement route with him and backed off.  Yeah one of the things we have to be careful of as writers is not to take away from the core story.

Reader 3 Aug 23rd at 4:04 PM

Can we have more stories of Isabel and Audrey?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I have a strange sense of deja vu right now…

Reader 4 Aug 23rd at 4:05 PM

There’s a certain theme of longing and desire running through all your books. You write that like no one else. Do you just like to torture us poor readers? :laughing:

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Ah thank you for the lovely compliment.

Torture is never the intention!

I think there’s a lot of longing and desire in the real world so being able to resolve that in fiction always feels nice.

Reader 5 Aug 23rd at 4:06 PM

Did writing this story give you the excuse to go to flight school?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Ha! Not quite.

I’d always wanted to learn to fly but after a bunch of lessons (which I was excellent at I might say) it got too damned expensive and I was all weird and nervous about the radio calls.

Reader 6 Aug 23rd at 4:06 PM

@E. J. Noyes a number of your books seem to have a ” forbidden” relationship at the heart of them. Do you enjoy writing the angst that comes from that?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Ummm… I’m a VERY empathetic writer so I don’t enjoy the feeling I get when my word kids are upset.

I do enjoy the emotion of it though.

That’s a total contradiction, isn’t it…

Reader 6  4 days ago

maybe but that’s what makes them so intriguing… and feel so real

Reader 2 Aug 23rd at 4:09 PM

What’s on the horizon for your next book?  When is the Bella publishing date?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Pas de deux!

Dressage in the lead up to the Rio Olympics – rider + veterinarian (and an awesome horse). Characters were NOT friends together at Pony Club 20+ years ago and meet again.

I’m still writing it but I believe it’s out May 2021?

Reader 7 Aug 23rd at 4:11 PM

For me Turbulance felt like a slightly ‘lighter’ story than some of your other books and I just wondered if it felt like that when you were writing it? I loved it btw! (edited)

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Ummm, it was only the second novel I’d written so it  definitely felt lighter than Ask, Tell.

I think I was still in the “HoW is WrItInG?” stage so that had its own stresses.

Reader 7  4 days ago

It is hard to believe (but enderaing and reassuring to hear) you could ever be in that stage with the doubts and stresses that come with it. Your writing is so accomplished.

Reader 5 Aug 23rd at 4:12 PM

Where did the inspiration for Turbulence come from? Did you have the story mapped out ahead of time or did it organically grow once you had the characters set?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I was plane watching while in the city during work day, because I ALWAYS look up at planes.

Most of my stuff starts with – “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” and go from there. I had a thought about a 1st class passenger and pilot spotting each other and the pilot getting an attendant to give the passenger her number.

And it morphed from there.

Nope – I do not plan anything so it evolved as I wrote, including the characters. I get vague ideas, write scenes out of order and off it goes.

Reader 8  4 days ago

@E. J. Noyes and we are grateful of that plane watching because it gave us a wonderful book! It was my first EJ book and got hooked afterward! Definitely a page-turner! Just love it!

Reader 2 Aug 23rd at 4:15 PM

Does it take about 6 months to write a book or maybe it depends on the book?  Which one was the fastest, which one the slowest (maybe the first?)

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I really couldn’t say because I tend to work on multiple projects at once.

I don’t think Ask, Tell was the slowest, no. I think If the Shoe Fits probably? Maybe?

I had to take a week off work to finish up the draft because it was getting too close to deadline for my comfort 🙂

Reader 5 Aug 23rd at 4:16 PM

How often do you find you are deleting scenes and what makes up your mind to do so?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I don’t deleted anything until I’m comfortable with the word count, around say…70k?

Otherwise it makes me feel like I’m going backwards.

Because I don’t plan, and I write like a frenetic monkey, I tend to work by writing scenes/lines/chunks and then joining them up. Then as I start figuring out the  story I start realising what works and what doesn’t.

Anything I cut goes into another file to either be repurposed (either somewhere else in the book or another).

Reader 9  4 days ago

Wow, I never would have guessed that you’re not a planner because everything in Turbulence comes together so beautifully. Do you spend a lot of time on revisions?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago


And also edits with my editor because she’ll point out something doesn’t work

In Turbulence she wanted me to strengthen the Mark stuff (so imagine how flimsy it was at first…) and I had a massive stress because I am so bad at research – my reading comprehension is shit so trying to find info about things I don’t know about (aka every book I have written!) stresses me the hell out.

Reader 2 Aug 23rd at 4:18 PM

@E. J. Noyes RE: Deleted scenes – did you ever consider selling them separately – even as a charity fund raiser?  Or loyal reader reward?  I read recently someone did that and I thought it was really awesome.

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I don’t think I’d ever sell them – that feels weird.

I’d like to keep putting them up on my website, but honestly I’ve been a little busy with writing lately and I do have to run an editing eye over the deleted stuff to make sure they are vaguely readable.

I did have a brilliant (and time consuming) idea of continuing stories on my site as short scenes, one character per chapter (including people like Mitch) but again…time 🙂

Reader 2  4 days ago

@E. J. Noyes The short story character idea like Mitch sounds like a great idea!  Hope you get some time to do that in the near future!

Reader 10  4 days ago

The deleted scenes on your website are fun, would be cool to see more when you have time

Reader 5 Aug 23rd at 4:21 PM

How long does it take you on average from initial idea to publishing?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I can only really speak to Ask, Tell because now my publisher and I are either “Here, I have this” or “Do you have anything?” :slightly_smiling_face:

Ummm….doing a LOT of file searching this morning…

I started writing AT in December 2014 according to file dates. Subbed it to Bella in January 2016 after a million revisions and waiting for another publisher who took months with it on sub (no simultaneous) and rejected it. Accepted by Bella after about a week.

Reader 5  4 days ago

Big, big mistake to the other Pub…

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I’m not sorry 🙂

Reader 4 Aug 23rd at 4:25 PM

Do you have a favourite couple that you’ve written? And which character is most like you?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Oh the favourite kid question!

I can’t answer that because I do love them all.

Um, all of them have parts of me in them but I would say probably Sabine (aside from the super smart surgeon part).

I have the same constantly running self-narrative in my head that she does etc etc

Makes sense my first MC would be an extension of me 🙂

Reader 5 Aug 23rd at 4:26 PM

How do you land on your character names?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

95% of the time – open browser, type “girl’s names” or “boy’s names” 🙂

Some are friends/family but mostly just name searches until I find one that feels like it suits.

Reader 11 Aug 23rd at 4:27 PM

I also loved the book (well, except for wanting to throttle Mark for the blind-siding)… What would you suggest as a good choice for a second of your books to read, for somebody who enjoyed Turbulence?

Reader 5  4 days ago


Reader 6  4 days ago

All of them!

Reader 15  4 days ago

Reader 11, i’ll answer that one and say genuinely: any of them! all are superb but super different to each other. it is just the quality of character and complex emotions that are the same. The setting and background is a complete surprise each time.

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Oh tough one. I think they are all so different so it’s hard if you like a certain thing.

So yeah, all of them 😀

Reader 4 Aug 23rd at 4:29 PM

How did the hook up with Abby Craden for the audiobooks happen? She’s absolutely perfect for your books. They are my absolute favourites for my commute.

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I woke up to an email from my publisher (which is how it usually goes, thanks timezones) saying Ask, Tell and Ask Me Again had been picked up for audio and I’d get a list of narrators choices soon.

I couldn’t type back fast enough that I really loved Abby Craden’s narration.

And that was it. Done.

And I agree. I love the nuance of her performance and I always feel she really gets my work.

For If the Shoe Fits – because I know everyone is curious – there was a scheduling issue and Audible chose Kelsey Navarro, who I’m thrilled with. I love what she did with it 🙂

Reader 6  4 days ago

Ah that’s interesting I assumed it was because you needed a different voice. Yes all great narrations

Reader 12  4 days ago

It was hard to adjust to a different person reading characters I’d known so well, but it was still a good audiobook.

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

@Reader 12 Aye, I’ve heard that a lot, but some things are out of the author’s hands 🙂

Reader 12  4 days ago

Completely agree and understand, being the various stages of producing 3 audiobooks and unsure how to proceed with the rest of the series given production schedules and all that. It was the best you could do with the situation. I’m not sure how Abby has any free time!

Reader 2 Aug 23rd at 4:33 PM

Is the Terminator ride at Universal your favorite?  :slightly_smiling_face:  Or has it been replaced?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I’ve only been to Universal once. Hard when you live in another hemisphere :slightly_smiling_face: So I’d say it still sits at the top of my list.

The Jurassic World ride wasn’t open when we were there which was TRAGIC.

Reader 13 Aug 23rd at 4:35 PM

How do you find the ideas for your books?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Daydreaming. Weird thoughts when I see something. Someone says something which twigs an idea 🙂

Reader 1 Aug 23rd at 4:35 PM

What are some of your favorite WLW books lately?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Oof, I have to admit I’ve dialled back on allll reading. I just don’t have the time I’d like, and honestly – reading fabulous work makes me super self conscious about my own work.

I really loved the audio of Breaking Character by Lee Winter/Angela Dawe.

I have a bunch of unread or unlistened rather audio because I find audio easier on my ego

Reader 14 Aug 23rd at 4:36 PM

If you were offered the opportunity to ride on the back of a dragon would you take it?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Bloody hell, do you think I’m crazy?

As if I’d pass up that opportunity! But I’d like a saddle or something – they always seem so rough scaly.

Reader 9 Aug 23rd at 4:45 PM

What’s your favorite non-lesfic genre to read/watch?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago


I really don’t think I have one for reading or watching.

I’m not a huge television consumer and even less so now with The Rona – just have no desire to read/watch things.

I do enjoy things like Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel etc but then I’ll go down a rabbit hole of books about WWII.

Reader 12  4 days ago

Any particular reason why WW2?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

@Reader 12 Weird morbid fascination that started as a kid I guess. Trying to understand how that happens.

I do have a historical fiction completed but not sure I’ll ever have the guts to publish it.

Reader 12  4 days ago

I’m sure everyone agrees to publish everything. 😉 I’ve always had a fascination with the military. I know why now, but it’s also fascinating on a human level to see how far humans will go for power.

Reader 15 Aug 23rd at 4:48 PM

you said earlier that you write scenes and then tag them all together in an order after the fact. I understand you are a pantser, but at the second stage, after the “big write” do you then lay out a cohesive “emotion” time line. your characters are always so complex yet subtle and i struggle to think of a way you can map their growth if it is purely pantsing, whats your secret?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Nope :slightly_smiling_face:

I don’t do any of the stuff they say you should when writing about arcs and growth and relationship and story beats etc.

I think it just evolves as the story grows and comes together.

Reader 2 Aug 23rd at 4:49 PM

Do you see yourself doing anything like sci-fi?  Like a “Terminator” sort of story?  (I’d put “Reaping the Benefits” more as Fantasy).

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I’d not considered it.

It’s funny that Reaping the Benefits is being categorised by people as “paranormal” or “fantasy”.

To me it’s a romance with a plot behind it, much like Alone was 🙂

Reader 12  4 days ago

Agreed. I’m not keen on some of these genre specifications just because there are certain elements in there.

Reader 4 Aug 23rd at 4:49 PM

When you write your characters do you have a person in mind who they look like, an actor or someone you know? If you don’t who could you see playing Sabine and Bec in a film?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

I don’t, no – which I think HORRIFES Lee Winter :slightly_smiling_face:

I find it hard to pick actresses because all of my characters (with the exception of Brooke in Shoe who I knew looked like Jennifer Garner) are mashups of features. So it’d be like “Oh it’s this person, but taller/younger/with different eyes or hair and dimples” so then it’s not really even them, is it…?

Reader 1 Aug 23rd at 4:50 PM

How do you think Isabel and Audrey are holding up in quarantine? Are they staying in the city, or perhaps near Isabel’s mom?

Reader 12  4 days ago

Private jet means they can still travel to a lot of places. 😉

Reader 11  4 days ago

And being the boss means you can have people fetch everything you need if you have to quarantine as a post-travel precaution

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Tough question because I don’t know exactly what you guys can do over there.

If totally stuck, they’d be staying in the city – Audrey moved in to Isabelle’s place. There’s obviously a lot of sex. Audrey is cleaning a lot. Isabelle is online shopping. They’re playing a lot of board games.

Audrey is now addicted to RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Reader 6 Aug 23rd at 4:51 PM

Most of your books have a 1st person POV. Do you find it easier to write the emotions and get in the head of the characters in 1st person?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago


As mentioned above, I’m an empathetic writer so I do really get inside their heads. Which is great, but also exhausting for emotional books like Ask Me Again and Alone.

Reader 15  4 days ago

Did that make reaping the benefits a different writing experience ?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

@Reader 15 It did, but mostly because I was second-guessing my choice the whole time which just messed with my get in their head mojo 🙂

Reader 2 Aug 23rd at 4:52 PM

@E. J. Noyes I wonder if Sabine and Becca would be going crazy at the hospital and wonder if one of them wouldn’t get the virus…

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Sabs being Sabs she’d be loving working instead of staying home but also anxious about being made to do COVID stuff 🙂

Bec is frazzled as shit because she’s the boss.

They, like most of the frontline healthcare people, would probably get it.

Reader 12  5:05 PM

Do you know which of your books are most popular?

Or are they fairly even?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

It’s hard to tell because the only quantifiable thing I have is sales numbers which doesn’t really work because a book released years before another will have sold more at the time of report. I always got the sense that Alone is the most popular. My little weird one.

Reader 12 Aug 23rd at 5:11 PM

Okay, one more, because I can’t remember if you answered this elsewhere. If you could have any of your books made into movies, which would you most like to see?

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Probably Gold – skiing!

But the Ask, Tell trio would be fun.

Alone would be awesome but so much relies on the reader being aware of the truth when Celeste isn’t and I think that would be really hard to convey.

Reader 12  4 days ago

I love Gold. I’m writing a lesbian snowboarding movie with a trans lead right now. Gold could definitely translate.

As much as I love Alone, I can’t imagine how it could be translated to film without changing the experience. And yet, it might be doable. It adds a lot more suspense for sure.

Ask Tell would have to be a miniseries I’d think, but that could be cool. And gives time to dive into Mitch’s world as well.

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

@Reader 12 Aye, and that’s how I wanted it. Obvious twist because knowing what’s going on when you’re inside the head of someone who really doesn’t is awesome. And horrible too

Reader 15 Aug 23rd at 5:19 PM

where would you prefer readers to buy your books, straight from the publishers or amazon ( have read that different authors have different preferences)

E. J. Noyes  4 days ago

Honestly – anywhere :slightly_smiling_face: As long as people purchase them.

Generally authors do make slightly more direct from publisher, but Amazon sales lead to visibility.

Thanks everyone for coming along, and you can always find me on Twitter @zgrokit where I hang out a lot and am always up to answer your burning book questions.

Lesfic Book Club: Blurred Lines

For our July meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Blurred Lines by KD Williamson. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Reader 1  4:10 PM

Thanks so much for joining us – we’re happy to have you

KD Williamson  4:11 PM

I’m glad u reminded me. I’ve probably got a lil too much on my plate this week sorry

Reader 1  4:11 PM

So what did everybody think of Blurred Lines?

Reader 2  4:11 PM

I only made it to chapter 12 so far in the 4th book. I was hoping to have completed the series before the book club meeting today. I got sucked in. 😀

Reader 3  4:12 PM

It was fantastic

Reader 4  4:12 PM

I love the series it’s one of my favorites

Reader 5  4:13 PM

Book was amazing I love the chemistry and the teasing between them!

Reader 6  4:13 PM

It’s great! I love Kelli

KD Williamson  4:13 PM

well don’t stop if you wanna shout more accolades! lol

Reader 3  4:13 PM

I got to ask the most important question first. Metallica? I luuuurrrvvvvvveeeee them so was thrilled they guest starred

KD Williamson  4:13 PM

I’m a metallica fan

old metallica

Reader 7  4:14 PM

Yes, their chemistry is wonderful! I found that I didn’t like either Kelli or Nora at the beginning of the book, but I always liked them when they were together, from their first interactions.

Reader 6  4:15 PM

Aww, Kelli is totally my type of person though :slightly_smiling_face:

Reader 1  4:15 PM

Yeah Kelli seemed like she would definitely be a challenging patient haha

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Kelli is a challenging person period lol

Reader 7  4:16 PM

There are parts of them that I really identify with… but I think what made it hard to like them initially (but what also made it more powerful when they came together) was that we got a really good look at the “walls” each of them put up against the world, before we got to know the women inside those walls

Reader 3  4:15 PM

How did you decide on the characters, were they based on any real life peeps?  (edited)

KD Williamson  4:16 PM

Kelli and Nora were actually based in fanfic ans Rizzoli and Isles

Reader 5  4 days ago

I got that vibe!! I wish on the show they had got together

Reader 8  4 days ago

I’ve never watched Rizzoli and Isles, lol. :see_no_evil:

Reader 10  4 days ago

READER 8 you need to, and I wasn’t wrong when I kept seeing Maura in Nora… tho I just got the Rizzoli fam resemblance in Kelli’s family.

Reader 4  4:17 PM

Yes I called that

Rizzoli and Isles is only the best show EVER I love Maura and Jane

Reader 5  4:17 PM

Kelli is the best totally! I wonder were is my Kelli BUT I am just find out that I have a spot for Ice Queens!!

Reader 6  4 days ago

The chemistry is so strong they should have put them together.

Reader 4  4 days ago

Yes they should have! They were practically together without all the kissing and stuff. Even Hoyt saw it

Reader 3  4:18 PM

Did you always plan it to be a 2 part book?

So the baddie could get what was coming

KD Williamson  4:19 PM

No my publisher at the time, Ylva thought it was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy to long as it was

so they wanted to split it in two. Character growth big time for the second book

Reader 3  4:21 PM

What about books 3 and 4? Where they just additional stories or did you purposely think them up to fit the docs and cops theme?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

I purposely didn’t want the series to be about the same ppl over and over but I wanted to keep the theme

Reader 1  4:22 PM

Do you have a favorite profession to write about between the two, cops vs. docs?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Kelli and Nora started out as my favorite but Tonya and Haley ended up stealing the show for me. She was a psychiatrist

Reader 2  4:22 PM

Will there be more books in the series?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

If I can find something original possibly

Reader 9  4:23 PM

I’ve only read the first one, with the second ready to go. Is extra slow burn your thing @KD Williamson?

I mean those two were just fizzing and popping and downright smouldering!

KD Williamson  4 days ago

LOL I don’t do it on purpose! Honest! It just worked out that way. But I’m starting to think maybe it is

Reader 3  4:24 PM

If this is too nosey then ignore. But I saw a group of you seemed to defect from Ylva and form a new publisher. Is there a reason or you just all wanted a change?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Nope mad love for Ylva just wanted a change. I may even be going toward self publishing some day

Reader 2  4:25 PM

What was the most enjoyable thing to write for the book?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

the humor and the sex lol

Reader 3  4:26 PM

Do you have a background as either a cop or a doc?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

I have a mental health background, My mom was a nurse. My sister is a nurse too

Reader 9  4:28 PM

Don’t know the show but did you base Carina on anyone. Some of her questions were outrageous!

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Yup Jane Rizzoli’s mom on the show. I added a lil extra spin on her of course

Reader 1  4:30 PM

What’s your favorite part of a romance to write?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

I don’t like so much to do the conventional romance. To me the best part is the getting to know you stage it’s full of awkwardness, humor, heat or it should be

Reader 9  4:31 PM

If the characters weren’t based on the show, who do you see playing Kelli and Nora in a film version?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Ohhh hmmm I’m gonna hav to think on that for a min. I’ll come back to it

Reader 4  4 days ago

I would want Sasha to play Nora still

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Who would yall like to see? Kelli is a redhead so..?

Reader 1  4 days ago

Do you have a strong visual image of your characters/setting/etc while you write? I always tremble in fear at the possibility of being asked this question because I do not lol

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Sometimes I do Reader 1. Sometimes I don’t.

Reader 4  4 days ago

Hmm… Kat Barrel or Chyler Leigh

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Lena Headey as Kelli

she could do the red hair and the attitude

Reader 1  4 days ago

Ooh, I could see Chyler or Lena for sure. I was thinking a little younger, Isla Fisher

Reader 6  4 days ago

The attitude is everything

Reader 9  4 days ago

The actress who plays Joan in Mad Men maybe?

Reader 1  4 days ago

I would watch Christina Hendricks in anything

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Nooo I see her for Nina in my newest book Big Girl Pill

Now for Nora…hmm who does damaged well?

Reader 3  4 days ago


I do damaged real well :joy:

Reader 10  4 days ago

What about Bridget Regan as Nora?

Reader 11  4 days ago

But in the book, you write Nina as a blond. I liked how she came into herself during the book

Reader 9  4:37 PM

What about writing in a different genre @KD Williamson? Any plans?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

I’ve written spec fic before wayyy wayy way back won a goldie for it but the book is out of print

I do think about it but I think romance is my thing…done my way

Reader 6  4 days ago

And your way adds a lot of ‘color’ that we need. Not just in the characters literally ethnicity but in the way they talk and act. Much more down to earth.

Reader 1  4 days ago

I would be very interested to read that – any possibility of self-publishing to get it back into circulation?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

It would need a major MAJOR rewrite lol I’m so different as a writer now but I’ve thought about it

Reader 2  4:38 PM

Who are your favorite lesfic authors?

KD Williamson  4:39 PM

Meghan Obrien is very underrated

I did a podcast with Tara scott about her lol

Reader 9  4:39 PM

Would you ever do a collaboration?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

god no…no no no I don’t think I’d be able to my writing voice is my own

Reader 2  4:41 PM

Any advice for new writers or those looking into getting into writing?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

if u self published get an editor first if you go through a publisher read ur contract and haggle if you can and then listen to your editor! Argue but be willing to listen

Reader 9  4:42 PM

Do you have a potty mouth like Kelli :laughing:

KD Williamson  4 days ago

For the most part fuck yeah lol

Reader 1  4:44 PM

What’s your favorite non-lesfic genre to read/watch?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

I do a lot of superhero stuff. I can’t help myself. I’m a big kid so I love the Marvel and DC live action shows

Right now I’m listening to Sandman its based on a graphic novel from the DC universe

Reader 9  4:45 PM

Do you do much stuff like this, interaction with fans, and do you enjoy it?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

All the time and yes for the most part I really do. The unsolicited DM’s get a lil invasive and weird sometimes tho lol

Reader 1  4:48 PM

Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser, or something in between?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

A pantser to a degree until I get near the end I tend to map that out more

Reader 12  4:50 PM

What is the one book you couldn’t live without?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Wild by Meghan Obrien it’s just something about that book

I listened to the audiobook

Reader 3  4:53 PM

There is a need for more POC in books but there’s a big debate about white peoples shouldn’t write a character who is a POC because they don’t know their lifestyle. So which is better, just hoping for more POC authors or allowing white writers to add characters they want without having to make them all white.

Apologies if this offends anyone

KD Williamson  4 days ago

thats a good question. publishers generally are reluctant to put out books written by POC because they still think they don’t sell or they only sell to that particular race. That’s not true. I’m an example of that. As far as letting others write what they want? I think it’s a fine line because white writers have been guilty of using stereotypes seen in the media for their characters. If a writer does write about a POC they need a very good sensitivity reader

Reader 3  4 days ago

Thanks for your answer. I don’t care what the author looks like, I judge purely on the book.

Reader 6  4 days ago

My take in general is that we have enough bad representation. What we need is good representation. Support authors of color. And if you’re writing outside your experience, research and get sensitivity readers, if you write it at all.

Reader 1  4 days ago

As a traditionally published author, is there anything you think readers can do to put the pressure on publishers to pick up more POC manuscripts?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

They can be willing to read it. I hear so much call for diversity and then when it happens….readers dissappear cuz it isn’t exactly what they thought it was or wanted

And review those books, buy those books, spread the word as well as letting the pub know

Reader 2  4:53 PM

Would you ever consider writing a romance set in a world of super heroes?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

I’ve thought about it. That takes some world building I don’t know if I would be good at that. But I also think about just writing about a Jessica Jones everywoman character

Reader 9

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

Captain Marvel

Reader 3  5:03 PM

I saw a twitter post where you single handedly took on gcls about their diversity issues. Do you feel you won your battle?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

No not until I see some actual change. I did a skype chat with a couple reps the other day so we’ll see. I think the common misconception is because I spoke the Reader 3dest and longest I can fix everything but that’s not my job

Reader 3  4 days ago

No it’s not but it certainly helped raise awareness

Reader 3  5:07 PM

What’s your next book and when will you find time to write it?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

At the beginning of the year I was working on a follow up to Big Girl Pill my latest. Unfortunately, things got derailed. My mother died from COVID and I’m trying to get back on the writing wagon. So this year I’m hoping a new book will be out

Reader 2  5:09 PM

Would a vet and an animal control officer fit the cops and docs theme?

KD Williamson  4 days ago

A vet yes but an animal cop? Idk sounds too cutesy lol

Reader 13  5:09 PM

Blurred Lines has been in my favorites file for awhile now – read it 3 -4 times. Thanks for that treat.

KD Williamson  5:11 PM

thanks all for having me!

Reader 1  5:11 PM

Thank you so much for joining us KD and if you all haven’t been there yet, please check out her charity auction going on now: https://www.facebook.com/events/706052596885127

Lesfic Book Club: Charming the Vicar

For our June meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Charming the Vicar by Jenny Frame. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Jenny Frame  4:00 PM

Hi everyone. Thanks for inviting me.

Reader 1  4:00 PM

Hello Jenny, thanks for chatting with us!

Reader 2  4:01 PM

Hi, just reading the wrong book of yours for book club like you do ya know……

Jenny Frame  4:01 PM

Ha ha! That’s okay. Quade’s book is a fav of mine.

Reader 2  4:02 PM

They’re by the haystack after reconciling …..

Reader 1  4:02 PM

I have not read it yet but I loved Quade in Charming the Vicar

Do you pick favorite characters when you write?

Reader 3  4:03 PM

Ouch, hay is pokey

Reader 4  4:03 PM

Hey jenny

Jenny Frame  4:04 PM

When I start a new series, I always know who the side characters are going to fall for… So it’s always exciting to start and give them all a love story. Quade is especially sweet though.

Reader 4  4:04 PM

Quade is sweet but the vicar s by far my favorite

Reader 2  4:05 PM

Did you have Penny mapped out for Quade from the get go?

Jenny Frame  4:05 PM

Bridge is one of a kind. It was so much fun to write a very femme character with so much confidence and power at her fingertips.

Reader 4  4:06 PM

What was the inspiration for making bdsm part of her background

Jenny Frame  4:07 PM

Penny was always going to be a social media influencer, who couldn’t live without her phone and Instagram, but I did some deeper character work for her when I came to write it.

Reader 2  4:07 PM

Up to the epilogue.

Reader 3  4:08 PM

The character work is definitely fascinating.

Jenny Frame  4:09 PM

The Bdsm part of Bridge somehow was always part of her, and I don’t know why. She came fully formed as a character, and as I say she was different from the normal characters I wrote. From the beginning I saw a Vicar with a whip. The two sides of her creating a conflict.

Reader 2  4:09 PM

How did you research for the royal books? Do you have insider knowledge?

Reader 3  4:10 PM

I am not at all familiar with the churches in England, so it was very interesting to compare the approach to religion in this instance with what I’ve experienced.

Reader 1  4:11 PM

Agreed – having the church leaders be such a center point of the community was very different from what we have locally but it definitely added to the “everybody knows everybody, we’re all family” vibes that were so great in this book

Jenny Frame  4:12 PM

I’m a big history buff and in the U.K that goes hand in hand with royalty. I loved learning about the strange rituals the family take part In. The things they do in their day to day life is fascinating.

Reader 5  4:12 PM

I also found my church comparisons going, though with a little more familiarity because most of the churches I’ve been involved with (and employed by) have been historically connected to the Church of England, but they do things differently than their Canadian and American outgrowths. (And one of the ways has been that the North American outgrowths have, at their national levels, been more welcoming than the C of E as a whole.)

Reader 4  4:13 PM

Of all professions why a magician for finn

Reader 3  4:13 PM

I didn’t even know the C of E was here… which sounds ridiculous to say. But where I grew up our heritage is strongly German and Scandinavian.

Jenny Frame  4:14 PM

Thank you. Yes small English village life has two focal points the church and the pub. The church doesn’t even have to be for believers, it’s sometimes just a traditional thing people take part in on Sundays-then off to the pub! 🙂

Reader 2  4:14 PM

A lot of UK primary schools are c of e including the one I went to

Reader 5  4:15 PM

Well, the Episcopal Church has had a couple of centuries to diverge from the Church of England

Reader 2  4:17 PM

Where do you get your ideas from for your books? What inspires you?

Jenny Frame  4:18 PM

I saw Finn as a magician because I wanted my atheist character to be so sure in her disbelief that losing her faith in atheism was such a hard thing. And I’m influenced greatly by the famous magicians who set about debunking faith healers and such. We have Derren Brown in the UK and I believe Penn and Teller do similar things.

Reader 1  4:19 PM

Was it difficult to figure out how you/Bridget were going to lead Finn back to her faith? I was on the edge of my seat for a while and you pulled it off really well, not compromising either character

Reader 3  4:20 PM

I liked the parallels between illusion and fake preachers, but also the connections you drew to the way Bridge and Annie used similar techniques without harm

Jenny Frame  4:20 PM

Songs inspire me a lot. I build up a playlist for every book and listen on repeat as I write. Songs have always opened up stories in my imagination, but often news reports can set off a story, as it did for my book Unexpected.

Reader 3  4:21 PM

There were times I was genuinely concerned about how you were going to handle everything, but it was well done.

Reader 5  4:22 PM

I think what I loved most was how Bridge and Finn each had histories that shaped them but didn’t, in the end, trap them

Reader 2  4:22 PM

So what song inspired you to write about a bdsm whip wielding vicar?

And was it Could it be Magic by Take That that inspired Finn? 😉

Reader 5  4:23 PM

And I’m so glad that I was “complete-ist” enough to buy and read the first book, so that I could recognize Harry and Annie when people spoke about them (and when they returned to Axedale).

Jenny Frame  4:23 PM

Thank you. I wanted a kind of balance between their beliefs. An open door that Finn could look through into Bridge’s strong sense of faith, but still leave room for Finn’s disapproval in fake faith healers etc. I have Church of England vicars in my family as well as atheists, so I can see that tension in real life.

Reader 6  4:24 PM

I just want to say I love the book! It’s my first read by you and I’m highly impressed… You give Anna Stone a run for her money on the S&M like I was SO drawn to Bridget and how she was protrayed!  It was beautiful

Reader 2  4:25 PM

You’re so lucky Reader 6, I read the wrong book! :smirk:

Reader 3  4:25 PM

And I’m the opposite. That aspect still leaves me uncomfortable, but I enjoyed the story either way.

Jenny Frame  4:25 PM

Bridge and Finn’s song was Bad things by machine gun Kelly and Camilla. I think it describes their relationship to a tee.

Reader 2  4:28 PM

Jenny, you’re with Bold Strokes right? Do you ever find there’s a language barrier between yourself and your editors or do they have uk editors?

Reader 3  4:28 PM

To clarify, not that the dom/sub relationship existed, it was quite interesting and perfect for the characters. It was that it never let up that made me uncomfortable in the end.

Which I recognize as a ‘me’ issue, not a book issue

Jenny Frame  4:31 PM

No. My editor Ruth is assigned to a lot of the U.K authors. She studied there I believe and is very intune with us over here. The only things I ever have to adjust is the Scottish characters language. Some of our local language wouldn’t quite be understood. So it’s like Scottish light. 😉

Reader 2  4:32 PM

I’m from Yorkshire and struggle with that too as we’re very strong on dialect.

Reader 1  4:32 PM

Yep I’m with you – Scottish is its own language, depending on who’s speaking it 🙂

Reader 3  4:33 PM

I enjoyed the Scottish bits in the Unexpected books

Jenny Frame  4:33 PM

Yes, I think we both have the same issue Reader 2. 🙂

Reader 1  4:33 PM

Do you have a favorite part of the romance to write, or a favorite part of the whole publishing process?

Jenny Frame  4:34 PM

I love research. I love learning about every aspect of a characters job, way of life etc. Unlike a lot of authors I do love editing too. I like to get back to the manuscript and make it better.

Reader 2  4:34 PM

Out of your Axedale characters (minor ones too) who would you be BBF with, who would you marry and who would you bury under the patio?

Jenny Frame  4:37 PM

Bridge BBF, I’d marry Quade, and I’d bury Bishop Sprat.

Reader 5  4:37 PM

Good choice on bury!

Reader 2  4:38 PM

In the book I read (book 3) it said Finn’s well known hair (can’t remember the wording) was dishevelled. I was intrigued to know what her hair is like

I’d marry Quade too

Reader 4  4:38 PM

Yes bury bishop sprout!!!

Jenny Frame  4:38 PM

Unkempt, messy mop that somehow sits perfectly and sexily.

Reader 2  4:39 PM

What is your next book about?

Reader 5  4:41 PM

And… for somebody introduced to your work through the Axedale series, which of your non-Axedale books or series do you like most?

Jenny Frame  4:41 PM

I’m part of a novella anthology that is out in July. It has stories from Ali Vali, Carsen Taite, and me. It’s about second chance romance, and features a Glasgow couple. After that I have the second in my vampire series, Longing For you.

Reader 5, I think Unexpected is closest to my heart. A simple family romance.

Reader 2  4:42 PM

Which genre do you like best? Vampires or sweet butch/femme romance?

Reader 1  4:43 PM

Sounds like you do a lot of research, is it safe to say you’re a plotter rather than a pantser? Do you do all your worldbuilding with setting and side characters before you write?

Jenny Frame  4:43 PM

Definitely sweet butch/femme romance. They’re the kind of stories that come from my heart. I’m a hopeless romantic!

Reader 2  4:45 PM

I read somewhere that you’re known for your butch/femme stories? Do you write any others like femme/femme or is this like your signature style

Jenny Frame  4:46 PM

Yes Reader 1, I like to plan, but then during writing I kind of veer off from time to time.

I do butch/femme, although every couple is different. Different energies, different ways of presenting, or expressing themselves. Especially the butch characters. I like to represent butch women for the wonderful people they are.

Reader 2  4:49 PM

Butch people tend to be as soft as s**t like cuddly teddy bears 

Reader 3  4:49 PM

And that’s beyond appreciated (shhh @Reader 2 don’t tell all our secrets)

Jenny Frame  4:49 PM

Gentle giants!

Reader 1  4:49 PM

Who are some of your favorite authors to read?

Jenny Frame  4:51 PM

I love Ali Vali. Her devil, gangster series is my top Lesfic loves, and of course Radclyffe, who writes sweet butch/femme books.

Reader 2  4:52 PM

I love Radclyffe books, her medical ones are my favourite by her

Jenny Frame  4:52 PM

Yes the province town series is lovely.

Reader 2  4:53 PM

Do you write full time or work and write?

Reader 6  4:54 PM

Was there any chance that Finn and Bridget had been at Reds at the same time and never knew it?? Bridget’s dream just got me thinking like what if…

Jenny Frame  4:55 PM

I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time from home.

Yes Reader 6, that was the what if I was thinking of. I had a similar experience with my partner Lou. We worked out we were in the same small gay club years before we met, and never knew it. That’s what inspired me.

Reader 6  4:58 PM

I love little snippets like that…. As long as Harry never actually got with Finn I think all is safe. :joy: Though would be hilarious

Reader 1  4:58 PM

That’s adorable – everything in its time

Jenny Frame  4:58 PM

That would just be so wrong! Ha! Ha!

Reader 6  4:59 PM

It would be .. my mind went there when I read it though. :woman-shrugging::skin-tone-2:

Reader 2  5:00 PM

Have you got any other author friends – like a posse you hang out with (online even)?

Jenny Frame  5:01 PM

Not really. I’m a very shy person. Not good at socialising.

Reader 2  5:02 PM

This group is my posse

Reader 1  5:02 PM

It’s hard! Do you do conferences and stuff for Bold Strokes?

Jenny Frame  5:04 PM

No, I have a back injury that doesn’t allow me to travel, and I’m not so good with socialising. I do my best to interact with readers online and I love talking with them. It’s wonderful to get feedback from readers and to learn that maybe a character has resonated with them.

Reader 1  5:06 PM

We have so much access to be able to talk to each other these days, it’s a great time to be an author or a reader

Well we’re at the top of the hour – thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Jenny!

Reader 3  5:06 PM

I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Jenny Frame  5:07 PM

Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s been lovely.

Lesfic Book Club: All the Love Songs

For our May meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed All the Love Songs by Nicole Pyland. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Nicole Pyland  4:00 PM

Hi everyone, I’m here!

Reader 2  4:01 PM

Hi from the UK Nicole. Loved the book. Was Kenzie always going to be a neuro diverse character?

Nicole Pyland  4:01 PM

She was, yes. From the start, I’d always planned on that.

Reader 2  4:02 PM

I think you captured her really well.

Reader 3  4:02 PM

Hey yall I made it hahaha loved the book it made me cry a bit

Nicole Pyland  4:02 PM

Thank you. I appreciate that.

Reader 2  4:04 PM

When you wrote the book did you know there was a also a prequel just waiting to be written, which I’ve recently read.

Nicole Pyland  4:05 PM

Not really, no. I wrote ATLS with the intention of it being a standalone book. Later, I kept thinking about Dani & Peyton and their story, and it became one of the books I had to write.

Reader 1  8 days ago

Dani and Peyton are such fully realized characters I was surprised when I found out that their book was written second. Do you tend to dig deep into all of your characters like that while you’re figuring out the story?

Reader 5  8 days ago

I thought i’d missed something when I saw this is now book 2. I read it before book 1 was released I think

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

yes, they literally all live in my head and it’s confusing. my wife was worried at one point that I might say “Hey, I’m off to have coffee with ___.” and it would be a character. Lol

Reader 6  4:05 PM

I’ve never heard of an autistic character referred to as graceful before. Most of the people I know on the spectrum (including myself) are more on the awkward and clumsy side of things. I’m curious as to where this originated. I don’t know everything there is to know about autism so I’m always looking to learn more.

Reader 3 May 31st at 4:06 PM

When you wrote the book what was the inspiration behind lennox’s character

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I didn’t have an overall inspiration for the character. I just wanted the right woman for Kenzie, and that’s where she came from.

Reader 6 May 31st at 4:06 PM

You did well writing all the parts regarding sensory overload.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Thank you. I deal with these things myself, so I used a bit of my own experiences to describe them.

Kenzie felt like a graceful person to me, and it seemed like something that most people wouldn’t notice, but Lennox did and that made it special.

Reader 5 May 31st at 4:07 PM

the gracefulness made sense bc my brain is constantly trying to optimize. As is my wife’s and we’re both on the spectrum

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I say this to my wife all the time “Be more efficient with your movements.” lol

She’s glaring at me right now after having read that.

Reader 5  4:08 PM

So are you also on the spectrum? Or adjacent?

Nicole Pyland  4:08 PM


Reader 4 May 31st at 4:11 PM

You write with do much heart and each character is filled with wonderful nuances and wit. How did you feel about opening yourself up, and allowing yourself to write honestly? Because All of it came through beautifully.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I’m getting more used to it now, but it was hard in the beginning. I think fanfiction helped a lot here because I could post it, people could read it and tell me if they liked it and since they usually did, I got my confidence to write original stuff.

Reader 1 May 31st at 4:13 PM

How did you come up with the concept for adult summer camp? I loved that

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

It was just something that came to me, and I wrote it in my notes and then when I had the idea for Kenzie and the celebrity squad, it all came together.

Reader 7  8 days ago

I took my granddaughter and friends to an all day concert and there was an adult day care tent.  A/C, chargers, water, etc.  Cool.  Love the idea.

Reader 2 May 31st at 4:13 PM

I found it so interesting that you wrote someone who describes herself as awkward doing a job where everyone wants a piece of her. The tension  of these opposing positions was so interesting to read.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Yeah, I feel that in my day job myself a lot. So much of it is not my natural state and over the past decade or so, I’ve had to develop coping mechanisms and keep pushing myself when I’m put in situations I wouldn’t really like.

It made sense to me that Kenzie would use acting in that regard.

Reader 5  8 days ago

I don’t know how many people caught it, but I really like that Kenzie didn’t know how to dance because she never had to learn for a role. There is so much summed up in that one sentence that it stuck with me.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I feel like it was something she and Lennox would both understand. It’s also the reality of being on the spectrum for a lot of us, which I’m sure you understand @Reader 5

Reader 5  8 days ago

Yeah and then Lennox not even questioning or pushing her was so good!

Reader 8 May 31st at 4:15 PM

Not so much a question, but: One of the things I liked about the book was the balance. For me, your book had a great balance of wish fulfillment (imagining falling in love with a celebrity crush) and… reality (in my case, there were scenes that reminded me of the early days of my relationship with my wife)

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Yeah, there’s a suspension of disbelief a little, but it’s nice to think about that the person you’re crushing on is also crushing on you and then it turns out to be real.

Reader 1  8 days ago

And I think anyone could fall in love in a canopy in the woods – great romantic setting

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I remember picturing that thing in my head for whatever reason and feeling like I had to put it in this book.

Reader 6 May 31st at 4:16 PM

I am curious if Maddox will be getting their own book at some point in the future.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

It may or may not be the next book in the series.

Reader 1  8 days ago

Woo hoo – I love Maddox

Reader 9  8 days ago

me too! Here interactions with Kenzie was great.

Reader 2 May 31st at 4:17 PM

All the love songs has a large supporting cast. Is this part of your masterplan for a huge series?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

As my wife will tell you, I never have masterplans. I have little surprises where I tell her upfront “I’m not writing anymore in this series.” Fast forward a few days or even months, “So, I think I’m going to add to that series I told you I was done with.”

Reader 2  8 days ago

Hahaha. Maybe you just need to percolate!

Reader 1  8 days ago

Whoa, I am in awe of that – I can’t even brush my teeth without a plan in place 🙂 So would you say you’re a pantser when you write?

Reader 6  8 days ago

Or perhaps do you plot in small doses (a book at a time) and pants the overall series?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

It honestly just depends on the book. For some of them, iI’ll write a general outline. Recently, I’ve been writing more detailed ones, but I rarely used to outline at all. That’s true with this book. No outline. Just wrote it with no plan.

Generally speaking, I just get an idea and start writing. Then, if I like the side characters I’ve created, sometimes I get the pull to make them fall in love in their own books. That’s how pretty much all of my existing series have turned out coming to fruition.

Reader 4  8 days ago

That is amazing. I think I spend too much time planning. Maybe Going with the flow is the thing to do.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I think it’s about finding your process honestly. Sometimes, outlining holds me back, so I don’t. Sometimes I need it, so I do it.

Reader 4  8 days ago

When is your next book due to come out? And do you have an ARC team?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Always More (1st book in the sports series) just came out and the next one if A Shot at Gold (book 2) on July 16th. I do have an ARC team. If people reach out on my site and request to join, I usually send them the form to sign up.

Reader 4 May 31st at 4:19 PM

You mention fanfiction, where do you post

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I haven’t in years, but I’m on fanfiction.net and archive.


Reader 6 May 31st at 4:19 PM

I don’t know if Reader 5 will have time to ask these before they have to run off, so I’ll ask for them. 1) Where did the idea for the book come from? 2) Was it hard to write the angsty parts?

2 replies

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I had three random ideas that then turned into the book. 1. adult summer camp 2. girl squad and 3. Kenzie’s character

Yes, it’s always hard for me to write angst after I watch them fall in love. I just want them to be happy.

Reader 2 May 31st at 4:21 PM

First book of yours I read was the one with Eve and Ember. I didn’t realise it was part of a series, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. Do you feel you need to read them in order to get maximum enjoyment?

5 replies

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Depends on the series, honestly. I wrote Fresh Start (book 0) with no intention of writing more. Then, I wrote The Best Lines. So, it can standalone, but Hannah and Alyssa are in book 0.

If you then want to read more about the other characters falling in love, you can read the other books, but I generally write books with just that couple’s story in mind so you can technically read them solo too.

Reader 8  8 days ago

Best of both worlds: I can be so completist about reading series, but sometimes it’s just nice to pick up a book.

Reader 7  8 days ago

I think it’s better read in order.  Chicago still one of my favorite series.  Love Hailey and Charlie.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I read a lot myself, so I like to find the first book in a series whenever I can. It’s why I created the character connection page on my website, so people would always know where to start. I’ve ended up mid-series as a reader at times, and I always feel like I’m missing something.

Reader 1 May 31st at 4:25 PM

Could you see yourself writing full-time if the opportunity presented itself?

4 replies

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I used to think no, but as I’m getting older, I can see myself doing it, yes.

Reader 1  8 days ago

You write so prolifically I assumed that you were full-time until you just mentioned otherwise – you go girl : D

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

No, I have a stressful day job. I usually write most evenings and on the weekends. I’m lucky. I write very fast.

Reader 8 May 31st at 4:28 PM

I also wanted to applaud the representation: I liked that it wasn’t anywhere close to her entire character. And it didn’t fall into the “obstacle or gift” dichotomy, but showed that (like so much else in life) that aspect of her had both positives and negatives for Kenzie

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I wanted to show that it’s part of who she is, but not all of who she is because that’s how I know I feel, and I think that can be applied universally; not just with being on the spectrum.

Reader 2 May 31st at 4:29 PM

What’s your ‘day job’ and how on earth do you fit it all in?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I direct a training team of about 20 people at a tech startup.

It’s taken me a while to get the whole work/life balance thing. I’m not perfect at it, but in my home office (since I’m working from home right now due to COVID), I have a set space for my day job and a space for my writing. That helps.

Reader 1  8 days ago

That separation is so important.

Reader 2  8 days ago

That sounds….. intense! I am rubbish at working from home. Too many distractions, too many dogs to snuggle!

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I have 2 cats. one is downstairs. the other is and I’m quoting my wife here right now, “Trying to get in trouble.”

So, I get it.

Teresa May 31st at 4:32 PM

Hi Nicole. I loved the book. I would like to know how long it takes to write a book? You always seem to have a book out for us to read!

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

It depends on the book. For ALTS, I finished the first draft of it in a weekend. For some of the others, it’s usually about 2 weeks for a draft. Others do take longer, but that’s usually because there’s something going on at work on in my life and I need to pause until I can get back to it. I’d say I easily hit the 10K a day mark almost every day and sometimes, I write much more.

Reader 4  8 days ago

You are truly gifted.

Reader 5 May 31st at 4:33 PM

Does your wife read your books?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

She’s the first reader. I know how much she likes it by how late she stays up reading it.

She runs the business side of the publishing, so she gets dibs. My writing is also how we met. She read my stuff on fanfiction and messaged me. We got together later after that. So, my writing is a big part of our relationship. I’m very lucky it’s not something she tolerates, but something she’s loves and participates in.

Reader 8 May 31st at 4:34 PM

With balancing both a day job and a writing life, how much time do you work on your writing in an average day/week?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I’m usually at it at least 1-2 hours a night when I’m writing. On the weekends, I’m writing most of the day, but I do stop for breaks and meals (assuming I remember I’m supposed to eat), so I’d say maybe 15-20 on avg.

Reader 2 May 31st at 4:35 PM

I really enjoyed The Fire and The Disappeared. Any plans to go more in this direction again?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I have one idea I’ve had sitting in my notes app. I haven’t written it yet. Mainly, what happens is I get an idea, write that down and then have a new idea (or an old one) pop into my head and I trust that. When my brain is telling me to write an idea, I trust that and do that one instead of going down my list, so I’ll get to it at some point. I’m sure there will be more too. My degree is in criminal justice and behavior analysis, so I’m always into writing more in that genre.

Reader 9  8 days ago

I loved The Fire. One of my top three books of yours. The Disappeared was great too.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Thank you. Both of those were really intense, but fun to write.

For The Fire I spent a whole day just trying to come up the names for the characters because I wanted them to be opposite, Ripley is water themed and Kenna is fire themed.

Reader 9  8 days ago

yes, they were intense as a reader but damn, oh, can I say that word…the way you wrote the characters was amazing. I especially loved Ripley and Kenna connection.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

they were really important to me. for whatever reason, I wanted them to find each other and be together, and I wanted them to have to fight through some stuff and earn it.

Reader 9  8 days ago

Excellent book. Can’t say it enough.That’s deep…how you came up with the characters names.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

It was a lot of googling and finding the right ones

Reader 1 May 31st at 4:38 PM

What’s your favorite genre/trope/fandom to read in (if you even have free time anymore haha)?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I listen to books every day, so that’s how I find time to read. I usually read at least a book a week depending on how long they are. I don’t know that I have a favorite. It depends on my mood. I am 99% of the time though reading lesfic. Outside of lesfic, True crime is up there. I should read books on business, leadership and blah blah blah, but I’d rather read something else.

Reader 1  8 days ago

Who’s your favorite lesfic author?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I have a couple right now. I generally read/listen to anyone that’s on Audible, but I just finished Elle Spencer’s latest and I’m a Brayden fan too.

Reader 9  8 days ago

Glad to know I am not the only one who reads lesfic 99% of the time. 😉

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I don’t think I’ve picked up an actual physical book in years. i’ve been buying books on Audible and listening to a ton of lesfic since before I started publishing. I think I really only have a couple of business books in my Audible library, all the Harry Potter books, The Diary of Anne Frank and the rest is all lesfic.

Reader 9  8 days ago

I’m a Brayden fan too. Loved her Seven Shores series, expecially ELT.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

that’s my favorite in that series as well.

Reader 10 May 31st at 4:43 PM

Are you planning on writing books outside of your comfort zone? Sorry I am late I am making chicken gumbo

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Pretty much everything I write is out of my comfort zone. lol The Moments was out of my comfort zone when I wrote that one. Many of my sex scenes are out of my comfort zone. lol ATLS was definitely out of my comfort zone because it was so personal. I try to tell stories differently whenever I can. I have a few written that will come out at some point that are also like that.

Reader 4  8 days ago

I think that’s what makes it so authentic. You dig really deep down to the point where the connections between the characters I raw an honest.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I think that’s the Aspergers thing. My default state is that 99% of things are out of my comfort zone.

Reader 2 May 31st at 4:45 PM

Any plans on a different genre, say historical or sci-fi?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

historical- nothing yet. I did just have an idea pop into my mind for a possible sci-fi book. I wrote it down to maybe use later. Sports is up right now. then, I have some different one-offs that I hope people like.

Reader 9  8 days ago

Starting the first book in the first series today. Just finished reading ATLS again.

Reader 11 May 31st at 4:46 PM

Hi Nicole,  Loved both books in this series.  I re-read both in the past couple of weeks.  “Fresh Start” was one of the first books in lesbian romance I read.  It really affected me and turned me into a fan of the genre.  Thanks for the great books!

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Thank you! Fresh Start is special to me. It’s the first real lesfic I wrote that wasn’t fanfic, but my own. I’d written stuff before (that I rarely finished), but not lesfic and nothing worth publishing.

Reader 4 May 31st at 4:48 PM

Being that many of these books a personal, do they ever takes so much out of you that you have to take a break from writing?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Honestly, no. I usually need to take a break from writing because my hands hurt from typing. When that happens, I revise mostly. While I’m revising though, I’m usually itching to get back to writing.

Reader 2  8 days ago

Sounds like you’re a writing ninja lol!

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

that made my wife laugh

Reader 10 May 31st at 4:51 PM

Is there going to to a answer to the brother on The Disappeared?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

No, unfortunately not. I made that a conscious decision that I know some people had a problem with, but I wanted it to be as real as possible. The reality is that when something like this happens, the family so often never gets answers.

I wrestled with a lot. I knew people would want to know, but the truth is, I don’t even know what happened to him. I wrote the book that way intentionally not trying to come up with an answer because I knew I’d find a sneaky way to leave clues and/or to incorporate it and that just didn’t feel like the right way to end the book for me.

Reader 2  8 days ago

As a reader I did want the answer to that question but I respect that life is not neat.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Yeah, I get that. I wish life could be a little “neater” these days.

Reader 9 May 31st at 4:52 PM

I’m just going say it…I love how you write the sex scenes. They have so much passion. Being that writing them are outside your confort zone how is that you write them so well? What’s your process if any at all?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I wish I could tell you I had some grand process where I mapped things out and knew what the heck I was doing, but that would be a lie. I don’t. This will sound cliche for sure, but I do what my characters tell me to do. That includes but is not limited to the sex scenes. If they’re sassier with each other outside of the bedroom, they might be sassier in the bedroom. That kind of a thing. I try to make sweet moments as well as some hot, passionate ones in each book if I can, because I think that’s reality, but that’s the extent of my planning.

Reader 8  8 days ago

From what I read in this book, it works! (Definitely won’t be the last book of yours I read!)

Reader 9  8 days ago

Wow…I love how you just explained that. I feel you hit every sex scene perfectly for ALL your characters.

Reader 10 May 31st at 4:56 PM

What are your favorite characters or couple in your books?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Kenzie & Lennox, Ember & Eva, Dylan & Ada and now Everly & Wyatt.

That’s ATLS, The Best Lines, The Disappeared and Always More (books)

Reader 7  8 days ago

I still vote for Charlie and Hailey.

Reader 9  8 days ago

Loved, loved Ember & Eva. I’ve read that book at least five times.

Reader 10  8 days ago

Dang, I have go with Fresh Start couple.

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I love Charlie and Hailey too. They frustrated the hell out of me though. Lol

Reader 2 May 31st at 4:57 PM

What book are you most proud of?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

I’m proud of a lot of them for different reasons. I think ALTS is probably the one I’m most proud of overall. It took a lot for me to write it because it is, in a way, personal and then to publish and see the reaction from people who read it.

Reader 4 May 31st at 4:58 PM

I think of your books as insightful and honestly therapeutic And I’m sure I’m not the only one. So how does it feel to be the one to have helped so many people gain an understanding and compassion for those on the spectrum?

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Honestly… weird.

I write for myself. Always have. So, to find out that something I’ve written has helped someone be more comfortable with who they are (whether it be this or with their own sexuality) is one of the best things I’ll ever do.

Reader 4  8 days ago

And you do it so well, Thank You!  I honestly can’t remember which one of your books was the first I read, but I will tell you it took me less than a week to read everyone of your books. It was a whole new meaning to binge reading.

Reader 9  8 days ago

Read all of them. Seriously, they are all great!

Nicole Pyland  8 days ago

Thank you!

If anyone is interested, you can hop over to my site, create a login and get some free stuff right now (like The Proposal Series) and the What Happened After (ATLS and No After You). https://nicolepyland.com/

Lesfic Book Club: Popcorn Love

For our April meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Popcorn Love by KL Hughes. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Cara Malone 

So, what did everybody think of Popcorn Love? Was it your first KL Hughes read?

Reader 1

No, it was my 4th!

Plus, it was my first ever lesfic

Plus I read it when it was still a Swan Queen fanfiction

Reader 2 

my first

I adore Alison

Reader 4 

I’ve read several of KL Hughes, when she was writing as Chrmdpoet in SQ fanfic.

but this is the second book I’d read.

I also read it when it was SQ fanfic. I liked the changes she made to the storyline and character histories for the published version.

Reader 3 

After the first scene, I disliked both Elena and Vivian so much… but then the next scene, with Elena at home, she became a real and likeable character for me, and the rest of the book was wonderful…

Cara Malone

What do you think makes for a likeable protagonist with flaws, and an unlikeable one?

Reader 4 

it’s that glimmer of possibility that they are not happy in their “messed up” ways

Reader 2 

One thing I loved was how real Alison was.
Elena was harder for me, she sounded so much older than she was supposed to be, but I think part of that was also the narrator.

I still like Elena though

Reader 1 

I think it was supposed to be the way she was brought up in her family

Reader 4 

Elena is more mature, even if she is messed up. She’s corporate, business-minded, and a full-time mother with obligations. There’s a natural maturity to that state of being. However, I also liked that KL established that Elena and Vivian had their manners drubbed into them.

Reader 4 

That also gave qualifiers to Elena sounding “older”

Reader 3 

I think I imagined Elena to be what my mother would have hoped I’d turn out to be. (shudder)

Cara Malone 

So this Reeses-popcorn snack… have you guys had this?

Reader 1  4:12 PM

Yes, I did tried it after reading it

Cara Malone 

It seems like it can’t be as orgasmic as Alison makes it out to be, but at the same time, I think I might be missing out

What did you think @Reader 1?

Reader 1 

It was okay, nothing out of this world

Cara Malone 

I think it appears in another book we’ve read recently… Just Jorie maybe?

Reader 4

I wonder if KL put that in as an “easter egg” for fans?

Reader 3 

A waste of good Reeses Pieces – mostly because I don’t have the patience to get popcorn remnants out from around my teeth, so I avoid it now

Reader 4 

I’ve thrown lots of things into my popcorn but not chocolate or anything like that. I’ve eaten Crackerjacks and Twaddle which are caramel coated popcorn-peanuts mixtures. So I imagined it as a “homemade” version of that.

Reader 4 

I think it was a good way to establish their differences in a concrete example. Allison isn’t “storebought” anything. She’ll make it herself or do without. But she has her vices, and Elena who has all this money for vices, has so few.

Cara Malone

I love that. They’re definitely an ‘opposites attract’ couple – Allison is all about physical experiences while Elena prioritizes the emotional/her son, etc.

Reader 2 

I could see it being phenomenal for a kid growing up in the system though

When you have nothing, food becomes more important

Reader 4 


that whole maslow’s hierarchy

and people develop complexes/reactions from extended exposure particularly as children.

Reader 3 

Also, the things that seem special to us as children often seem to remain special for us (even if as “guilty pleasures”) into adulthood

I think especially for children that may have grown up with less than their friends

Reader 4 

encapsulating characterization in the little actions is definitely a KL strength

Reader 2 

Randomly, I also liked that Alison didn’t mention that she sings or performs.

Reader 4 

the hard part of a book like this is picking one scene to “sum up the relationship” . It’s all built on such small details that add up over time.

Like a real couple, IMHO

you look at the 50-year married couple and ask “what makes it so strong?” and there’s not just one thing. It’s a lot of little things.

Cara Malone 

And the fact that Allison was equally excited to spend time with Lucas and Elena was so sweet

Granted she started as the babysitter so of course she likes kids, but not everyone would have incorporated him into so many of their dates like she did

Reader 4 

A dream of many single parents. To find a partner who loves your kids as much as you do

Plus, seeing someone interact well with a kid makes you love them more

for some people it’s a “test” that a potential partner can either pass or fail.

Reader 1 

Lucas is a sweet little thing

Cara Malone

Is there a Lucas character in Once Upon a Time or was he added by KL?

Reader 1 

Yes, Lucas was supposed to be Henry, Regina’s adoptive Son and biologic son of Emma

Reader 4 

Lucas is a “young” Henry for direct correlation, but probably more modeled after Roland, the son of Robin and Marian that Regina helped raise for a bit.

Roland is/was about Lucas’s age, whereas Henry starts in OUAT as a 10-year old

and we only see him as an infant in flashbacks in OUAT

but again, that’s one of the modifications that really worked well for shifting from fanfic to original fic

Cara Malone

I never read the fanfic but Lucas was definitely a highlight in this story

Loved the blind dates too – great comic relief

Reader 3

I also loved how the relationship with Elena’s mother went from the dreaded interrogation to she and Allison teaming up to tease Elena

Reader 2

I’m so glad the middle date was purposely making it bad. I was concerned lol

Reader 3 

Oh, those blind dates were wonderfully horrific!

Made me so glad that I never went on a blind date!

Reader 4 

Finding out the shift in who to set her up with was a great way to show Vivian’s awareness.

Cara Malone 

Oh man, I was cringing through that whole interrogation. A testament to how much Allison cares about Elena that she was willing to sit through it at all

Reader 3 

Oh yes! There are things that we can endure for love that we would not choose to endure for any other reason; and grilling by potential mother-in-law has to be right up there (especially with how the anticipation was set up for this interrogation)

Cara Malone 

What did you guys think about Elena’s decision to go on the third blind date, with the woman?

Should she have gone like she did or make an excuse to stay with concussed Allison?

Reader 2 

I think she should have stayed, but it worked better to have her leave.

I should clarify, to me as a person she should have stayed. As a writer, it made sense to have her leave.

Reader 4

Allison told her to go; to me the decision to go was because Elena had to acknowledge that Allison is her own person, and should know her own body. She realizes she cares, step 1. Going to the date with the woman showed her that it could be more than caring. So the date gave her character emotional growth and self-awareness. Necessary if you are taking a presumably heterosexual character and having them shift their sexuality.

Reader 3

I agree, Reader 2. I could make it a coin-flip decision if it was just Allison’s wellbeing, maybe… but it feels to me like Elena would (in reality) have worried about the potential effects on Lucas, if something were to happen and Allison were not 100%

Reader 2

Yeah, for me as a parent, with a with who has had plenty of head injuries, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable leaving. But, in the specific situation in this book, it still make sense.

Cara Malone

Did you guys have a favorite scene or anything in particular that you loved about the story?

Reader 2 

Every moment of cuteness with Allison, but really, that scene in the shower was the best

Reader 4 

I will defer my answer to my earlier comment about all the little moments. LOL

Reader 1

The scene in the shower

Reader 3 

For me, Lucas stole the show. Especially when he would talk about Allison having a sleepover with either he or his mother

Reader 1 

Yeah, Lucas was the star of the book

When he found Alisson in Elena’s bed

Cara Malone 

I tend to pay attention to prose and word choice a lot and KL had a lot of great lines. I think this was the first time Elena and Allison met, “She watched the girl’s emerald eyes rake the length of her body.”

Reader 3 

I thought of the way so many of us have been living the past few weeks with one sentence in Chapter 8…

[Allison] hated days like this, when she desperately wanted to do something, anything, but everything she actually did just bored her.

I know I had a couple of those days myself this week

Cara Malone 

Yup, that definitely sounds familiar

Do you guys find yourselves reading more or less in quarantine?

Reader 2 

I’m more busy than before

I might find a way to read more now that i have to (and want to).

Reader 1 

A little less reading, but I’m going back on track again

Reader 3 

I’m reading a little less: we bought a game console to help pass the time and… I find my routine just enough “off” with my partner working from home instead of the daily routine of dropping her off at/picking her up from the office

It’s not a whole lot less, but it’s there. (Though I did completely stop listening to audiobooks, because I mostly listen to them in the car.)

Cara Malone 

Yeah it seems like there should be a lot more time in the day now but the quotient of additional stressors has gone up too

I miss my audiobooks so much

Reader 2

Ok, I literally just finished the last chapter (because time management is hard) and I liked how she worked the popcorn and candy in at the end

Cara Malone 

Is my memory correct that Elena holds her ground and doesn’t try it?

Reader 2 

She holds her ground at first, then Allison explains how it represents them

but then she tries it

she says it isn’t awful, but it isn’t heavenly either

Cara Malone 

I figured there was no way she would get through an entire lifetime without trying Allison’s favorite snack – just couldn’t remember if it happened on the page

She’s pretty contrary – probably liked it more than she admitted haha

Cara Malone 

Well, we’re at just about the bottom of the hour… I did ask KL the questions that the group posed and here are her answers.

What inspires your stories?

I am inspired by a great number of things, but for characters and relations, I am often inspired by the people I’ve known or connected without throughout my life. I’ve been inspired by my own life experiences and those of others as well. I do my best to make characters that feel genuinely human in how they experience both joy and suffering because my whole life has been a very human experience in that way, that roller coaster of genuine joy and suffering.

How do you choose character names?

Sometimes, they just pop in my head, but often I do research from the years my characters were born, places they were born, culture, etc. Sometimes, I just pick names I like or have seen somewhere!

How hard your schedule been affected by recent events?

As far as my writing schedule, it hasn’t much been affected outside of the stresses and empathy induced anxiety affecting my motivation to work. I find I have even more time to research and write but less energy to do so. I am doing my best to keep balanced and well though and maintain schedule normalcy. But I also make sure not to let myself overwork so as to keep a healthy mind and balance in that way as well. My meetings schedule has come to a screeching halt due to the crisis, though, and that has been a bit stressful, but we are all doing our best.

What inspired the perfume bottle scene?

Ah, that ridiculous scene! To be honest (and embarrassed), it was inspired by an actual event in my life. It wasn’t quite so traumatic (nothing as hard or edged as a perfume bottle), but it was hilarious. I thought it would make for a great, funny, and endearing scene so I decided to use my experience as inspiration to write something similar but amped up a bit!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a bit of both, though more of a pantser. I tend to have a solid but very general idea of story flow with a more meticulous idea of character structure before I begin. I have big points I want to hit or scenes I want to write to and from, but I try not to overplan or it kills my passion for the work as I love the joy of discovery. It truly depends on the work though. Some stories require a lot more research or, by the nature of their structure, more planning.

Sneak Peek: The Beginning of Everything

Check out the first chapter of my historical romance, The Beginning of Everything, below – available now on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited.

“Elizabeth Anne Reynolds!” Ruthie Ginsberg’s voice rose to an ear-splitting pitch as she threw open the door to her adorable little butter-yellow ranch house and scooped Betty into her arms. “It feels like forever since we last saw you!”

Ruthie had been married for a little more than six months, but it only took her about a month to lose all sense of self. Nowadays, everything was we and us and our. Betty couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen her best friend without her husband, Joseph, and she was starting to wonder whether they’d already scheduled the surgery that would officially join them at the hip.

“I brought a bottle of chardonnay,” Betty said, her heels sinking deep into the thick carpeting as she stepped into the living room. She could hear voices coming from further inside the little house and for a few seconds, she had a strong urge to grab Ruthie by the arm and steal her away. They could go downtown on the L and Betty could have Ruthie all to herself like she used to when they were girls.

That would be nice.

But Ruthie was already pulling her deeper into the house. She relieved Betty of her coat, then took the wine out of her hands and made some impressed sounds as she inspected the label. “This is so grown-up!”

“I know!” Betty beamed. She was twenty years old and she had a good job in the city, but nothing had made her feel quite as grown up as going to a wine bar after her shift and laying down her hard-earned cash for that bottle of good chardonnay. “The man who sold it to me said it’s ‘fruit-forward with a smoky finish’… whatever that means!”

Ruthie giggled and Betty swelled with pride as her best friend linked arms with her and guided her toward the dining room. Betty knew the layout of the little house well – she’d been at the housewarming party right after Ruthie and Joseph got back from their honeymoon to Niagara Falls, and she came over once a month ever since to have Ruthie trim her split ends on a stool in the kitchen. 

Ruthie was just a homemaker trimming hair for a little mad money. She didn’t have a cape like they had at the salons, and Betty always left the house feeling itchy with dozens of little hairs under her collar, but it was always worth the discomfort to enjoy the feeling of Ruthie’s delicate fingers against her head as she washed Betty’s hair in the sink. Ruthie always took a long time, getting distracted and chatting and letting the warm water cascade over Betty’s forehead, and Betty would look up at Ruthie’s crisp white ceiling and occasionally steal glimpses at her pretty blue eyes. Sometimes Betty would look at the underside of Ruthie’s bust shimmying as she worked shampoo into Betty’s dark locks. It wasn’t like Betty could help it – Ruthie never was very aware of her body while she was distracted with Betty’s hair, and sometimes her stomach would press up against Betty’s arm while she worked, her chest just inches from Betty’s face.

It always made her cheeks flush a violent red, and then she’d have to lie and tell Ruthie the water was too warm and it was making her feverish.

Betty always seemed to be just a little bit too warm in Ruthie’s presence, and the Peter Pan collar at her neck felt a little tight as they went into the dining room now. Tonight kicked off the first of a series of dinner parties that Ruthie had decided to throw in order to comingle her old high school friends with Joseph’s new friends from the Chicago Tribune, where he worked as a salesman. 

“Look who I found!” Ruthie said, her voice climbing into a shrill register again as she drew everyone’s attention. “And she brought wine!”

Every face turned to Betty and Ruthie standing in the arched doorway, and Betty felt like she was on display – especially once she’d done a scan of the room and realized that there was only one other single person here tonight, a stranger who was looking somewhat slack-jawed at her.

“Sorry,” Ruthie said, leaning close and whispering into Betty’s ear. “But we can’t very well have a dinner party with an uneven number of guests – it would throw the whole flow of the conversation off.”

Betty was just about to point out the fact that she still lived with her parents and the three of them had had quite a few successful dinner conversations after her brother moved out, odd-numbered though they were. But Ruthie didn’t give her the chance. She set the wine bottle down on the table and grabbed Betty by the hand, dragging her over to the man who would be her companion for the evening.

“This is Ed,” she said. “He works with Joseph at the Tribune – he’s a typesetter. Isn’t that neat?”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Betty said, holding out her hand. When Ed took it, she noticed his fingers were permanently stained with dark newspaper ink, and she was relieved when none of it rubbed off on her hands. 

“This is the friend we were telling you about,” Ruthie told Ed. “Betty works downtown, too.”

“Oh?” Ed said, and the slight derision that appeared on his face didn’t escape Betty, even though it was only there for a second. One of those ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ types, Betty thought as she appraised him and Ed asked, “What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a secretary,” Betty said. She could talk at length about how she’d gone to secretarial school after high school because it offered her an alternative to getting hitched like the rest of her friends – at a price much more affordable than college. She could tell him that, in the six months since she started working for the Lumbermens insurance company, she’d already been promoted from the steno pool and gotten assigned as a personal secretary in the claims processing department. But Ed didn’t really want to know all that – he was just being polite. And this was going to be a long dinner party.

“Interesting,” he said. 

“It is interesting,” Betty told him, and when Ruthie caught the edge in her voice, she stepped in. She and Betty may have gone down very different paths after high school, but they’d known each other long enough to read one another’s moods from ten yards away.

“And, of course, you know Nancy and Charlie,” she said, pulling Betty’s attention away from Ed. 

Betty, Ruthie and Nancy had all been cheerleaders together in high school – go Wildkits – and Charlie was the star quarterback. He and Nancy had gotten married right after graduation and she already had a bun in the oven – they were the epitome of an All-American family unit, and Nancy was positively glowing with happiness as she daintily sipped apple juice from a wine glass. 

“You look great, Nancy,” Betty said, going over to hug her. She’d never been as close with Nancy as she was with Ruthie, but the three of them had had their fair share of sleepovers when they were younger. “How far along are you, three or four months?”

“Five!” Nancy said, beaming at Charlie, who took his cue to wrap his arm proudly around her shoulder. 

“Wow, you wasted no time at all,” Betty said, feeling a little bit dizzy before the chardonnay had even been opened. Motherhood – now there was another thing that, like marriage, she was in no hurry to get to. Unlike every single one of her high school friends, it seemed.

“I can’t wait to meet this little one,” Nancy said, her hand on her stomach. She looked at Betty – a little sadly, it seemed – and asked, “What about you? Are you looking forward to finding Mr. Right?”

Nancy’s eyes flitted subconsciously over to Ed, who was now helping himself to a bottle of gin on the sideboard. He poured himself a glass and grimaced as he took the first sip. He wasn’t ugly or anything – a little bit paunchy around the middle, maybe – but Nancy and Ruthie had both given Betty looks that made her think they expected her to make a love connection tonight.

When was she supposed to fall in love with this man she’d never met before? In between the salad course and the entrée? Would he help her put on her coat at the end of the night and look into her eyes, and suddenly she’d be ready to get hitched? Was that how it worked for other girls?

Maybe that wasn’t exactly what Ruthie had in mind when she invited Ed to even out the conversation, but it sure felt like lately, all of Betty’s friends were collectively holding their breaths and waiting for her to find the one. And that was to say nothing of her mother, who got more desperate by the day.

It was like there was a clock counting down right above Betty’s head, and she was the only one who couldn’t see it. Six months, twelve days and twenty-one hours until Betty Reynolds officially becomes a spinster. Except even if she could see the clock, she would have had a hard time figuring out what everyone else was so concerned about. She had a good job. She was saving up to rent her own apartment. And she’d never even been in love – it didn’t look like Ed No-Last-Name, the typesetter with the inky fingers would be the one to break that pattern.

“Maybe someday,” Betty told Nancy.

Nancy looked a little uncomfortable for her, then Joseph pulled the cork out of the chardonnay just then and poured a glass for Betty and Ruthie. Ed poured a few more glasses from the minibar for the other men, and while they all just stood there and sipped for a minute, Betty took a few seconds to swirl the light golden liquid in her glass. She smelled it before she took a small taste, just as she’d watched the man at the wine bar do it.

It was a ten-dollar bottle and she’d expected it to be a revelation, but it tasted just like all the other white wine she’d ever had – like grapes that had gone slightly fermented. Oh well.

“I think the roast should be done now,” Ruthie said after a minute. “Joseph, will you help me take it out of the oven?”

They disappeared through a swinging door on one wall and then a good deal more giggling emanated from the kitchen than was strictly necessary for a roast-extraction. Then, about ten minutes later, they all sat down to eat. Betty tried to feign surprise when Ruthie herded her toward the empty seat beside Ed, and she spent the whole meal trying to maintain a polite detachment from him lest he get the wrong idea and start thinking that this matchmaking nonsense was actually going to work out in his favor.

Ed was probably a perfectly nice guy. One of Ruthie’s other nearly-spinster friends might be happy to snatch him up. But Betty was waiting for one of those see each other from across the room, heart stops in your chest, can barely breathe, love at first sight moments, and what had happened when she met Ed was about as far from that as she could get without flatlining in a bad way. 

Betty’s mom called that love at first sight idea silly romantic drivel – she blamed it on Betty’s brother, Robert, and said he was infecting the whole family with his crazy Hollywood notions. But Betty couldn’t imagine spending the next sixty years of her life with someone who made her feel less alive than she did when she was getting her hair washed. 

“So, Betty, tell us about working in downtown Chicago,” Nancy said after a little while. “It must be stressful.”

“Sometimes,” Betty said. “On my first day working for Mr. Peters, I was so nervous I knocked a cup of coffee over on his desk and I had to spend the whole afternoon retyping a stack of insurance claims that got ruined. I figured he’d send me right back to the steno pool, but he was pretty understanding about it.”

Ruthie raised an eyebrow, as well as her wine glass. “Is he single?”

Betty let out a small sigh, trying not to let it show on her face. Why did everything always have to come back around to that? What would happen if she did get married – what would they have to talk about then? She glanced at Nancy sipping her apple juice. Babies – that’s what.

“No,” Betty said. “He’s married, and at least sixty.”

“Oh,” Ruthie said, disappointed that there wasn’t more of a story there. She switched gears quickly, though. “Ed, did you know that Betty-”

“Okay, that’s enough girl talk for one night,” Joseph said, cutting off his wife mid-sentence. It was rude – definitely not something the etiquette maven Emily Post would have approved of at her dinner table – but Betty could have gotten up and hugged Joseph right then and there for the interruption. Oblivious, he asked, “Charlie, how’s it going working for your old man?”

“Not bad, but I can’t wait to save up the money to open a shop of my own,” he said. Charlie’s dad ran a mechanic shop here in Evanston and Betty’s father had been taking the family cars to the Thompsons for years. They were honest workers who didn’t overcharge and always did the work right, but the subject of carburetors and oil changes bored Betty to tears almost as much as talking about her marriage prospects.

Fortunately, Ruthie proved to be a stern hostess. She let the conversation go on for a couple minutes while she passed around second helpings of juicy pot roast and the buttery new potatoes she’d baked to go with it, then she put her hand delicately on her husband’s arm and said, “Yawn, sweetie. No offense, Charlie, but half the people at this table think you two must be speaking a foreign language right now.”

“What’s so unrelatable about serpentine belts?” Charlie asked, looking to his wife for support. 

Nancy gave him a sympathetic smile – the exact same one she’d given Betty when she asked her when, oh when, she was planning to fall into line with the rest of the girls from their graduating class and get married. It shut Charlie up, though, and then Ruthie turned her attention back to Betty.

“Tell us what Robert’s up to in California,” she said, her eyes glittering with anticipation. For Ed’s sake, she explained, “Betty’s older brother moved to Hollywood last year to be an actor.”

“Oh, wow,” Ed said, showing a little more interest in that news than he’d shown in Betty’s career. “Has he been in anything I would have seen?”

“Not yet,” Betty said. “He’s still trying to get his big break. But he goes to loads of auditions and he’s gotten called back a couple of times. I talked to him last week and he said he had a meeting with an agent coming up, so that could be really good for him if it works out.”

“That’s so exciting!” Nancy said. “What kind of films does he want to make?”

Betty laughed. “Any kind he can book, I think. But he pictures himself as a leading man – a Marlon Brando or a James Dean type.”

“Robert? James Dean?” Charlie asked with a snort, and Nancy smacked his chest with the back of her hand.

“Be nice,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” Charlie said. “But I went to school with the guy and he’s more of a Desi Arnaz. Don’t you all think?”

He looked around the table for confirmation and Joseph nodded, a little reluctantly. They weren’t wrong – Robert had acted in all the high school plays and he’d distinguished himself as a fantastic comedic actor, but he was determined to leave all that behind when he went to Hollywood because it was the leading men who became household names, not the funny guys.

“My mother thinks all of it is an impossible pipe dream,” Betty said. “She and Dad wanted him to apply for a college scholarship instead, but Robert told them college would still be here if Hollywood doesn’t work out.” She gave a little chuckle, thinking back to the peculiar shade of purple that her mom had turned the last time Robert called home. “I’m not sure my mom will still be here, though, at this rate. She lays an egg every time he calls from LA.”

“I don’t blame her,” Nancy said, her hand on her stomach again. She was still four months away from having that baby but it seemed like she had started thinking like a mom at the moment of conception. “I think it’s neat that he’s following his dreams, but I could never do that. I don’t think I’d be too comfortable with it if one of ours decided to do it, either.”

She looked at Charlie, her brow knit with concern. She hadn’t even had this one yet and already, she was thinking multiple kids into the future. 

“Well, I think Robert’s a badass,” Betty said, drawing a couple of surprised looks on account of her language. “He’s going his own way and damn the consequences. I think that’s brave.”

Ruthie smiled at Betty, but Joseph muttered into his glass of gin, “Or foolhardy.”

With both Ruthie and Betty working on it, the chardonnay bottle was empty long before the party ended and the conversation turned to the movies, books and television that everyone had seen lately. They talked for a good half an hour about The Andy Griffith Show alone, and by the end of the night, Betty had completely forgotten that she was supposed to be there ‘with’ Ed – until he picked up her coat for her and offered to drive her home.

“Joseph is calling a taxi for me,” she said as she allowed Ed to help her into her coat.

“It’s no trouble,” he said, touching his fingers to the tip of his nose in a display of sobriety and adding, “I’m completely sober and a real good driver.”

“No, thank you,” Betty said. “I always take a taxi when I leave here.”

Ed looked a little put out at not being allowed to drive her, and they had to go back and forth with offers and refusals a couple more times for etiquette’s sake, but in the end, Betty won with only a small compromise. Ed would stand on the sidewalk with her until the taxi arrived, then slip the driver five dollars to cover her fare.

“It’s only a ten-minute ride,” Betty objected. “I have the money.”

“I’m sure you do, working girl,” Ed said, then handed the money through the passenger window anyway. 

Betty had to struggle not to roll her eyes as she plastered on a smile and said, “Thank you.”

Thank you, but this doesn’t mean I owe you anything, she thought as she climbed into the back of the yellow Checker Taxi. Ed waved as the car pulled away from the curb, and behind him, Betty saw Ruthie stepping onto the front stoop to wave goodbye. 

Joseph stepped out beside her and put his arm around Ruthie to shield her from the cold, and she nestled against him with a smile. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what they wanted and most of the time, it just so happened to be what was expected of them. There was something missing in Betty’s life and she wasn’t quite sure what it was, but she was sure that it wasn’t a husband.

Keep reading now…