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Today Damon Suede graciously lets us interview him about the book! But first, a GIVEAWAY!
Today’s giveaway is for a $20 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment for a chance to win!
We’re super excited to have Damon Suede here to answer some questions about his new book, Pent Up!
Hi Damon! Thanks for stopping by during “Pent Up Week” at Boys in our Books.
DS: Thanks so much for helping me celebrate the Pent Up release all week! I’m so psyched to have this time with y’all.
As an author, we can only imagine how much work it takes to market your books…especially during release week! So we appreciate you being here!
DS: It’s been a wacky couple months. I just got appointed to the RWA Board of Directors and attended my first meeting last week. Crazy great things underway: a big push for diversity in romance and accommodating the upheavals in the industry. But then went right from there to Readers ‘N Ritas so I’m a little punch drunk and barn shy. :) All the more reason to come hang with friends.
Congratulations! The RWA appointment is AMAZING and sounds like some really excited direction for the romance genre!
Ok, so here are a few questions our team had about the book itself. We all read it, and we had some interesting conversation about it back and forth. As a hint, pretty much none of us knew what to expect going in and you surprised us all in different ways! :)
DS: Yay! That is the best thing you could have told me! When I started the project, I knew I wanted to write a romantic suspense, and I knew that I wanted to play on reader expectations as much as I could, while staying true to my characters and their relationship. So that’s music to my ears.
How long did it take you to write Pent Up?
DS: Well, therein lies a tale. I originally finished Pent Up in March of 2014, but at that point it was a category length romantic suspense. For the next year and a half my agent fielded a lot of industry folks at different houses who wanted the book to expand in different ways and I ended up writing several different versions…none of which were “right” but all of which taught me new things about the characters.
Then last spring, a year after that craziness unspooled, I talked about the project with Lynn West at Dreamspinner (who knows exactly how to kick my asterisk) and got the book back on track. I ended up taking all these things I’d learned from the versions and gave the actual story room to breathe and flex at will. All the characters had woven much more into the book. So in essence the writing took me three months altogether, but there were several months spliced in there for other work and rewrites.
Was there a particular inspiration for the book or the characters?
DS: Yes and no. After Bad Idea came out I wanted something fast and fun to write with action and cool tropes. I thought romantic suspense… and then bodyguard, because I wanted to play with the idea of danger and safety.
Well, actually it started from the idea of out-for-you. Gay romance often plays with the idea of “straight” guys falling for each other, only I didn’t want to deploy the kind of semi-straight Kinsey 3 that seems to turn up so often in gay romance because it makes for faster fucktimes. That’s where the suspense made such a difference. Since coming out involves secrets and suspicion and anxiety, I thought it would be cool to dovetail the loaded issue of my two heroes’ sexualities with-and-against the background of crime.
Since I was gonna write romantic suspense, I needed plenty of motives in all directions and potential threats, which meant money and power and risk. That led to cool class differences, blue collar vs. blue blood, which gave me all kinds of fun friction between my two fellas. Plus bodyguard stories always involve voyeurism and violence…so the story kind of sprouted from the idea of gayness as a danger to these two men’s lives and identities.
The crime and their attraction ran in tight parallel. I made sure that literally every moment of crime-related suspense became a way to talk about how two guys deal with an attraction that endangers what they think about themselves. Secrets and lies, masks and prevarications, glitz and scandal. Their mutual attraction, the literal danger, their isolation… it made for a really Noir vibe made the writing seriously fun.
Ok, we’re wishing we had THAT answer before we read the book! ha! That explains SO MUCH! *insert a-ha moment*
There are some pretty detailed elements dealing with the financial world and those in “big money”. Do you have a connection? Or was it just a lot of research?
DS: I wish! I used to live on the Upper East Side in Manhattan and I have friends that work in finance. For a lot of my details I went to a close buddy who owns a hedge fund that he started himself when he was 28. He’s a math genius and incredibly patient with dumb questions. So every time I’d get stuck with some technical point or need to simplify the financial shenanigans, I’d give him a holler and grill him. Often even that stuff was too specific and technical to be used directly.
More than anything my knowledge of “big money” came from a lot of research. I always drill down in my books because I feel like fleshing out the world gives the characters oxygen and room to roam organically. In my own defense, every time I started to get REALLY inside baseball with the finance stuff, Lynn (my editor) or Geoff (my husband) would chide me gently to not slide down any research rabbit holes. I hope that I was able to situate the story IN the world of high finance without burying anyone in the minutia.
Would you label this “gay for you”? (also a topic of discussion among our blog team!)
DS: I’d call it “Out for you” but absolutely (see above!). I don’t really believe in Gay-for-You because it implies that you can make someone gay. As I’ve talked about elsewhere, I feel like the term Gay-for-You betrays a basic ignorance of gender issues and adult sexuality. Out-for-you describes how most folks come out. Desire is complex and people explore their sexuality in messy ways. Ruben’s divorce and alcoholism… Andy’s sportfucking and luxe…both guys showed up with serious intimacy issues and intense dismay about the looming threat of homoerotic desire.
So yeah… I intentionally wrote Pent Up as a shameless, unequivocal Out-for-You story because I wanted to see if it was possible to make the arc believable without starting the heroes off teetering on the verge of discovery. One of the things I love about Paul Richmond’s work on the cover is how it caught that steamy/intense/constrained danger. Love is fucking scary sometimes and that scariness can be challenging and sexy as well.
Yes! I think the discussion among our group was whether Ruben had ever had attraction physically or sexually to any other men before Andy. Some thought he had, others missed those references. But we definitely see the “Love is fucking scary” parts in this story!
Our group had some interesting conversations about the use of Spanish in the book…having native speakers on our team. But the Spanish actually played a part in the building of Ruben and Andy’s relationship. Do you speak Spanish? What made you decide that the use of simple words and phrases in another language would help shape their interaction?
DS: Again, this question makes me so happy.
Because I felt like Ruben and Andy both started the book pretending to be people they weren’t, I wanted them to find a way to speak to each other that was only for each other. Both guys have all these fantasies and preconceptions about the other. The Spanish played right into that, creating a gap and a bridge at the same moment, linking them to each other instantly and binding them together. I figure in a story about secrets and lies, what you know and how you say it carries enormous weight.
Ironically Spanish was my first language (although now I’m beyond rusty). In college I had a very dear friend whose family categorically refused to speak Spanish after they’d immigrated from South America. The fierce pride and shame in that choice seemed so dramatic to me. And because Andy was a financier, it made sense to make him a polyglot…and a lot of his slang is from different strains of Spanish because that fit with his jetsetter history.
Given their ambivalence about their own backgrounds, those moments of translation and teaching gave Andy and Ruben more intimate friction, cultural tension, and opportunities for them to really listen to each other.
“…creating a gap and a bridge at the same moment”… <-THIS! Ok, yes, this is what we were discussing. The use of Spanish endearments – did it keep them at arm’s length from each other, or did it bring them together? Well played, Suede!
Ok, so “New York Life” feels like a character in and of itself in this book. As a NY’er was it more fun to write about your town? Or was it more pressure to get it right?
DS: Both, probably. Because Ruben is so new to the city, part of the glamor of the book comes from him discovering New York’s glitz and menace. At one point Andy says something like “when you get close you realize the glitter is scales.” Because the book was romantic suspense… the settings let me play with a sort of noir overlay. There’s a polished danger to Manhattan, and a gritty jumble to the city that feeds into paranoia and envy, and ambition. I was working like hell to make those places come alive for anyone who’d never set foot in the city.
At the same time, I’d lived in all these neighborhoods, summoning the specifics was easy. I’ve lived in shitty walkups and in swanky high rises. I’ve had awkward body sushi at strip clubs (*Note to self: ask Damon Suede for this guest post prompt for next time!*). I’ve partied hard at cloistered frats and danced for a disease under that taxidermied whale. And that part is pure joy, sharing the little weird treasures of living in this place. :)
If you were pitching “Pent Up” to readers, how would you sell this book?
DS: A sexy, intense romantic suspense about a bodyguard and a billionaire who wreck themselves to save each other’s lives.
How’s that for glib Hollywood sizzle? LOL
And lastly, before you go…what’s next in your pipeline? Any sneak peaks you can let us in on? :)
DS: So much! I’m really excited about the year ahead. Because of the delay of bringing Pent Up to market, I have a lot of projects raring to go that are coming up shortly.
Up next is an erotic cowboy contemporary set in East Texas…fast, fun, and dirty as hell. Chris Rice has decided I’m writing that book for his specific pleasure and every few weeks or so, he nags me for his ARC. I’m also planning a rude/racy category for the new Dreamspun Desires line at Dreamspinner. And of course I’ve got a couple sequels well underway, so installments for a couple series too… I think y’all will be pleased. :)
We won’t ask you about the long-awaited sequel that everyone wants to know about. :) We’ll trust you…
Damon, thank you so so much for taking the time to answer our questions! It’s always AWESOME having you and your energy and enthusiasm…and your WORDS…here on our blog!
PENT UP: Mix business with pleasure and take cover.
Ruben Oso moves to Manhattan to start his life over as a low-rent bodyguard and stumbles into a gig in a swanky Park Avenue penthouse. What begins as executive protection turns personal working for a debonair zillionaire who makes Ruben question everything about himself.
Watching over financial hotshot Andy Bauer puts Ruben in an impossible position. He knows zero about shady trading and his cocky boss lives barricaded in a glass tower with wall-to-wall secrets and hot-and-cold-running paranoia. Can the danger be real? Is Andy for real?
What’s a bullet catcher to do? Ruben knows his emotions are out of control even as he races to untangle a high-priced conspiracy and his crazy feelings before somebody gets dead. If his suspicions are right, Andy will pay a price neither can afford, and Ruben may discover there’s no way to guard a heart.
Title: Pent Up
Author: Damon Suede
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 290 Pages
Buy Link: Dreamspinner
Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com.