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Hi, this is Ryan Loveless. Before I get started I want to thank Boys in Our Books for hosting me today as I talk about my 8th release with Dreamspinner Press and 11th overall, In Me an Invincible Summer.
Now, that title up there— That’s what my mother said to me as she announced her impending visit to my first apartment away from home. Naturally, I reacted as any self-respecting 19-year-old would—I cleared my things out of the bedroom I was sharing with the (gay) male roommate and moved it all into the (straight) female roommate’s, where it stayed until Mom had come, looked around, evidently found things to be on the up-and-up, and left. I still can’t believe I got away with that, especially since her investigation involved shoving open the closed door of my actual room to have a good perusal and the bed I was “sleeping in” in the girl’s room was busted.
So that was a strong violation of my early steps into independent adulthood. But when it comes to developing characters, mom has a point. You want to know where your characters live and who they’re living with. Homes are an extension of personality, so finding the right one for a character can fill up hours of intense, pre-writing, prep work. (It’s totally not procrastination. Totally. Not.)
For In Me an Invincible Summer (Dreamspinner Press) I found homes for my main characters Joe, Derek, Hunter, and Chris on http://www.houseplans.com, which has pictures and floor plans. I write in Scrivener, which has this cool feature that lets you choose a photo to write over it, so on scenes that take place in a home, I would put that home or floorplan as my background as inspiration. Let’s take a look!
Joe Nestra is a multimillionaire action star, so he could easily afford a large private home, but he’s also a divorcè. I wanted to give him the vibe of a man starting over, who then gets stuck in this post-start situation. So ten years after his marriage’s dissolution, he’s still in an (admittedly super expensive) penthouse apartment which, having come from a modest background, he thinks is too big for him. Plus, in a strange way living in a shared building gives him a modicum of privacy because there’s no way for an outside observer to know which resident visitors are going to see, whereas if he had a private home that would be obvious. Since uber-closeted Joe has a proclivity for discreet male prostitutes, this is vital to him.
Driven indie actor Hunter Starling doesn’t make a great first impression on, well, anyone, really. And he absolutely does not care. Thankfully his husband Chris is the sweetest guy in the world. I wanted their home to reflect this first impression of Hunter. What’s more pretentious than a castle plopped down on an otherwise castle-less landscape? When Joe first sees Hunter’s home, he views it as validation of his dislike. But inside, we see Chris’s influence—warm tones, a carefully tended vegetable garden, and a large, welcoming kitchen. It reflects how Chris’s influence on Hunter becomes evident once one gets past his abrasive, stony exterior.
Makeup artist Nathan lives in a West Hollywood apartment complex, and pictures of his apartment come from the interior shots of the website for that complex. Like him, his apartment is casual but sophisticated, featuring a tasteful and aesthetic design-on-a-budget. It’s a different world from what Joe has become used to, but also a comforting one for him. Nathan’s apartment reflects the cozy feeling Joe experiences with Nathan in his first gay relationship after deciding he’s done with anonymous sex. Later this coziness threatens to derail Joe from his journey toward self-acceptance as he begins using it as an excuse and a shield.
Finally, there’s Derek Simmon’s home. As Joe’s best friend and long-time assistant, he’s earned enough for a decent place. Unlike Joe, he chose a single-family home. I picture it located somewhere private, off the beaten path, where he can unwind. That is, when he’s there and not busy taking care of Joe. A front wall of glass gives an almost unobstructed view into the home, an appearance Derek chose for its false metaphor. Joe thinks he knows everything about Derek, as Derek knows everything about him, but unlike the house, Derek is more solid walls than see-through glass. The house says “this is a man without secrets,” and Derek knows that putting forth this impression will keep people—especially Joe—from thinking anything else.
So, when you read, think about where the characters live. What do they say about the characters? Sometimes the houses reveal more than the text states. For those who love a mystery, the real estate in fiction provides a myriad of clues—they just need a reader to uncover them.
Forget about reading between the lines… Read between the walls.
To an outsider’s view, world-famous action star Joe Nestra lives the Hollywood dream—parties, women, and a high-profile divorce. In reality, Joe’s agent directs his public life. Those women he’s supposedly intimate with? Prearranged dates ending at the red carpet. With his assistant and best friend Derek Simmons’ help, Joe has lived safely in the closet since his divorce, choosing to let off steam with discreet male escorts rather than risk an actual boyfriend. At forty-four, he has no plans to change. Then, taking a role in a film without flashy explosions upends that.
When Joe signs on to play an early 1990s-era AIDS-stricken gay man, his internalized homophobia threatens the production. His out costar Hunter Starling won’t put up with Joe’s behavior. As the animosity between Joe and Hunter grows, saving the film means Joe must face his deepest fear. Challenges pile up from all directions, from his father disowning him to the entertainment industry’s backstabbing reaction. Amid the backlash, Joe ventures into his first gay romantic relationship, tries to help others worse off, and slowly learns how to live his life instead of just acting it.
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