…we're keeping our name but expanding our offerings!
Without further ado…welcome HEIDI CULLINAN!!!!
BioB: Ok…so everytime I read a Heidi Cullinan book, I feel like I walk away thinking, “Well she clearly knows XYZ…” Like how you “clearly” knew poker based on the details of your book “Double Blind”. Come to find out you’d never played poker a day in your life! (WTF?!) Ok research queen…we’ll bite. You CLEARLY know music. Ummm…right?
HC: This, actually, I did know about. I was never in anything like the Ambassadors or Salvo, but the Saint Timothy Chorale is blatantly based on the Wartburg College Choir, and Nussy is essentially Dr. Paul Torkelson, my conductor. And his wife was Dr. Mrs. Torkelson. I did do some research for the a cappella, but this time I really did know what I was talking about.
BioB: The pages and everything about this book are about music. It’s like…gah…a love affair with how music is created and the impact it has. How prominant a role does music play in your life?
HC: I took piano from an early age, all the way into high school, though my daughter at 13 is better than I ever was. She takes after her father, who played piano in jazz band in high school (something she’s doing now in middle). I played piano, flute, a little guitar, and I sang show choir in high school and choir in college. My daughter plays violin, french horn, and piano, and sings. My husband played saxophone, piano, and organ.
Music is pretty huge to us. Dan and I both have Spotify subscriptions, and Anna is well on her way to one. Until smartphones streamed whatever you wanted, we would go on trips with huge cases of CDs and mix tapes. I think I have seven pairs of headphones. Songs mark times in our lives, artists speak to us…yeah. Music is big at the Cullinan house. I”m not much of a concert goer—that’s Dan and Anna’s forte. Me, I just need a good set of headphones and an open manuscript.
BioB: So before we talk about the new characters, let’s address Walter. He has a really big role in this book. Did you plan this? Or was it based on readers’ reaction to him after Love Lessons? Or did it just happen organically? (PS: I think I leaned towards #TeamKelly in Love Lessons. But after Fever Pitch? Walter is my world. :) )
HC: Walter walked into Fever Pitch, making me move Saint Timothy from Dubuque, Iowa, to St. Paul. Aaron went into the file room, and in Walter came. It turned Fever Pitch from something my agent had been dying for, a free novel to shop where she wanted, into a six book series tied to an established one.
Walter is worming his way into book three too, as we speak. I was trying to get to the part in the plot that was next, and then he and Baz (a character introduced in Fever Pitch) went to coffee, and hell broke loose. Those two together are pretty much my nightmare scenario. They should come with alcohol.
BioB: And now…on to Aaron and Giles. Where did they come from? How did they fit in your head and find their way into this series? BTW…I love them both. Inspired by anyone(s) in particular?
HC: I wanted to write about boys who met in their hometown, thought it was over, and then unexpectedly hooked up in college. I wanted to highlight that mixing of worlds, because college is so out of body and home can be a big anchor. But they were immediately different than I imagined. Mostly I wrote them down and prayed they would give me a story by deadline.
BioB: There’s a particular scene (well, let’s get real…there are quite a few scenes that are WOW in this book…) that tore my heart out. I don’t think it will be a spoiler…but it’s the scene Aaron leaves home barefoot and coatless. It’s EMOTIONAL. Did you have a hard time writing this or any other scenes in particular?
HC: Yeah, that one was rough for me, and that particular one was the roughest. I can’t answer without spoiling, but we’ll say between Walter and Aaron, they pretty much share variations on some family struggles I had in college. What happens to him didn’t happen to me exactly, more metaphorical. That’s why it was hard. Actually toughest were other people’s reactions. They were in disbelief, and I was flashbacking.
There are other scenes that were tough, but it was mostly me worrying if I got it right. It’s easy to softball when discussing a tough issue. I think the other one that was hard for me was Giles in the movie theater parking lot. I just bled for the baby boy.
BioB: There are quite a few REALLY STRONG side characters in this book (next question will ask about some in particular). Any concern, however, that they’d overshadow the main story of Aaron and Giles? (It didn’t feel this way to me as a reader…but it could have gone in that direction…)
HC: That was a challenge, yes, to keep everyone from stealing the limelight, but this book ended up being a lot about making your own community, so that was a natural extension, I guess. The side effect is that I now feel compelled to write all their HEAs. So I have some books to be writing.
BioB: Ok…let’s talk Baz and Elijah. TELL US THEIR STORY!!!!! (No? Not yet? *grumbles*…) Ok, can you at least tell us what you know? How did you come up with them and what do you feel their importance is for THIS book?
HC: Well, as I discussed in my guest post earlier on your blog, I never thought Elijah would be anything of note, but he had other ideas. Both he and Baz though became not just foils for Giles and Aaron (and even Walter and Kelly) but ways to show how everyone’s struggle is just that, a struggle, and nobody gets to stand on the side and plead victim. Everybody’s got a row to hoe, but it’s better together.
I’m working on their story now. They’re making me insane and telling the story out of order, then going on weird sidebars that are all nice and cute but it’s going to be a trick to keep this at 110k, I can tell already. The gang is all there, as loud and as big as ever. They were going to go on a road trip, but they demonstrated they were a hot mess without their posse, so we’re back at the White House. It’s all good.
BioB: Going back to the music…how did you pick all the songs that were performed? (BTW, they way you described the harmonies and vocals and the intruments? I could HEAR it all! Bravo!)
HC: I hadn’t discovered Spotify yet, so I bought about $150 worth of a cappella music. And songs I wished were a cappella. I’ve since created a Spotify playlist of the greatest hits, and it remains the story soundtrack that didn’t make my family hate every song on it. (My daughter hears three notes of “Papi” and screams.)
I don’t know how I pick music. It always seems to find me.
BioB: And what’s next up for this series…?
HC: Lonely Hearts is Baz and Elijah, book three. Book four…I can’t say, because I’ll give stuff away, but it’s a lesbian romance, and book five is the fabulous Lejla, whom you will meet in book three. There’s a straight romance which may be a novella in there, but I don’t know.
BioB: Thanks so much for sharing with us. Book 1 was a favorite of mine, but I might love book 2 more (*nods*…yes, I think I do…because it has Walter and Kelly AND Aaron and Giles AND Baz and Elijah AND music!) :)
HC:Thanks for having me, and I’m so glad you like the book! I’m pretty fond of it too. <3
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For more details go to Heidi Cullinan’s website
Coming September 30 from Samhain Publishing
Sometimes you have to play love by ear.
Aaron Seavers is a pathetic mess, and he knows it. He lives in terror of incurring his father’s wrath and disappointing his mother, and he can’t stop dithering about where to go to college—with fall term only weeks away. Ditched by a friend at a miserable summer farewell party, all he can do is get drunk in the laundry room and regret he was ever born. Until a geeky-cute classmate lifts his spirits, leaving him confident of two things: his sexual orientation, and where he’s headed to school.
Giles Mulder can’t wait to get the hell out of Oak Grove, Minnesota, and off to college, where he plans to play his violin and figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. But when Aaron appears on campus, memories of hometown hazing threaten what he’d hoped would be his haven. As the semester wears on, their attraction crescendos from double-cautious to a rich, swelling chord. But if more than one set of controlling parents have their way, the music of their love could come to a shattering end.
Warning: Contains showmances, bad parenting, Walter Lucas, and a cappella.
Book Page for Love Lessons (book one in the series)
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at www.heidicullinan.com.