NEW! Character stickers!
What inspired me to begin writing within the past four years (I used to write from seven to eighteen years old) was my mental health diagnosis. From eighteen to forty-five years of age, I made a living as an actor. When I got my master’s degree from The Actors Studio Drama School, their training was heavily based on storytelling, forcing us to create our own stories for three years from our own lives and the lives of the characters we were playing. When I came down with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (as well as two other mental disorders), got a healthy case of Agoraphobia, and became trapped in my tiny Brooklyn apartment, acting was off the table, so I took my storytelling training and began writing since I could do that from the safety of my own home.
I write because I have to do something creative; I have to entertain people. I’ve been that way every since I was a little boy. Whether it was writing, singing or acting, I’ve been a storyteller since the age of seven. I’ve loved daily serials since I was young so when I began to write four years ago, I knew I had to create a written daily serial in a similar vein to Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series.
When I’m not writing, I spend time playing with my dogs (a beagle and a German Shepard) as well as exercising, doing yoga and meditating, and watching lots of TV and reading. The battle that goes on in my brain is constant. While exercise/yoga/meditating can sort of help, it’s becoming involved in a story - be it my own story or one I’m being told - that tricks my brain into not freaking out.
I was inspired to write The Homos of Harmony Haven because I’ve always loved daytime dramas - not today’s characters-taken-over-by-the-devil type shows, but more the ones I watched when I was a child. Those soap operas were about families and friendships - real complicated people trying to do their best but failing constantly. I wanted to write a classic daytime drama but with an LGBTQ twist on some of the more familiar tropes (the brother in love with two sisters, the May/December romance, and a few others I won’t mention for fear of spoilers.) The great thing about the soap opera format is you can take your characters and tell various stories: romance, suspense, murder mystery, ghost story, erotica, the possibilities are endless!
My book is about the many Homos who populate a fictional suburb of Chicago called Harmony Haven. Fifty-five year old self-help guru Sebastian Seaford announces his engagement to twenty-three year old Alex Reynolds which shocks the Seaford family as Sebastian’s previous husband had died from cancer only six months earlier. Both of them have secrets to hide which the other residents are desperate to uncover and use to destroy them. Sebastian has a vengeful ex-wife who is furious at him for waiting until they were middle-aged before coming out and tossing her aside. The two of them have three children, the oldest a heterosexual cop who is only five foot three and doesn’t get much attention from the ladies. Their middle child is an alcoholic lesbian who is her own worst enemy. And the third is a spoiled brat who’s been shipped off to a private boarding school since he was twelve. As characters begins to discover Alex and Sebastian’s separate secrets, a mystery begins when Sebastian mysteriously disappears. It’s up to his detective son to try and find him and solve the mystery.
There are so many characters in the novel for me to pick a favorite but I’ll say that Victoria Seaford ranks right up there. She says all the things I wish I had the nerve to say to people!
Coming up with the characters and the world of the story took about a solid year of planning. I began by researching how to start a soap opera - how to create a core family (when many of them had to be of the LGBTQ community) and then populate the rest of the town with their friends and lovers. I spent almost an entire year creating a “bible” as it’s know in the soap world with incredibly detailed character backgrounds and story for about a year to a year and a half of daily 5 min chapters.
The world building was a similar process. My joke is that Harmony Haven is the kind of town small enough to have only one newspaper yet large enough to have its own international airport and a bustling downtown where its citizens run multi-million dollar corporations. It’s a fantastical town that stretches the imagination but is so much fun because I make up all the rules as to how life works there.
My writing has definitely changed since I began sitting down to write the story (rather than character backstory and planning) in 2017. I wanted to start with what I knew which is gay men and lesbians. So their stories are at the forefront. As I became more confident as a writer, I began introducing characters of color as well as transgender characters. (In fact, one character who is trans the audience meets early in the story, but that character doesn’t come out for a year - so although I knew I was writing a trans story, the audience doesn’t necessarily see that at first.)
I don’t feel as if I’m in a place where I can give advice to any aspiring writers. My writing process is so different as I approach it from an acting standpoint: I know I have 900 words for that day’s chapter, I know what plot points need to be covered, I figure out which character’s point of view will be used for the chapter, and then I become the character and improvise the scene. It usually takes me anywhere from forty minutes to two and a half hours to write. Then there’s the editing process...which I have to do while writing more chapters, planning ahead to the next week’s and next month’s chapters, all while continuing to write and edit more!
I have yet to release these as an actual novel. I have a group of subscribers (you can sign up at www.TheHomosofHarmonyHaven.com) who receive a five minute chapter every Monday through Friday. I have an easy way for new readers to get caught up - a five page synopsis of the story so far - although most people choose to just have the entire series delivered as a PDF so they can read it from the start!
It began the first full week of January this year and I currently have written through Christmas of this year. I’m five months ahead of the audience so I hope to keep the story going well into next year and beyond. I’ll keep it going as long as I can! Essentially, I have two full novels of 100,000 words written and am about one fifth of the way through the third book. I truly love sitting down at the computer every day and creating more stories for these crazy homos
What inspired you to write?
I used to write epic sagas when I was a teenager, sitting in my bed and writing into spiral notebooks. But through college I didn’t write, and then one day about six years ago I had this image in my head of two desks in an empty room, and from that came NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK. As I wrote that, all the other characters started coming to life, and now here I am.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Anything physical or adventurous. I’m also a personal trainer and spin instructor, so you can usually find me running or biking. Travel, Spartan races, or just adventuring in a new place are my joys.
Why do you write?
Because I’m not sure what else to do with the stories in my head! But I’ve published because my books mean a lot to me--and they seem to mean a lot to my readers as well. I love sharing the world I imagined with anyone who could use a little sparkle in their lives.
How old were you when you started writing?
I wrote several stories as a child/early teen. The Anti-Belle Series was born about 6 years ago.
How do you come up with your characters?
For the most part, they just occur to me. I’ll have an idea of a person, and as I write the story they’ll “reveal themselves” to me and grow in depth and complexity. I realize this may make me sound a little insane, but trust me it’s how it works!
How do you come up with your world?
Easy question! Nashville, Tennessee, is the setting of my series. It’s my hometown, and I absolutely adore everything about how hip and cool it’s become in the last 15 years! Music, food, friends, family… inspiration everywhere.
How has your writing changed from your first story until now?
Thanks to feedback from critique partners, my writing has gotten so much more fluid and stylized for sure. Even with a strong command of grammar (I’m an English teacher) and a background as a reader, it’s amazing how much more vivid and natural my writing has become over the drafts.
One thing I especially noticed was that in my first draft of Not Suitable for Work, I used a lot of profanity, which I scaled back big time in edits.
What is your book about?
My most recent novel, NEMESIS, is the story of Liv Milani. In the previous books in the Anti-Belle Series, Liv was something of an antagonist to both Celeste in Not Suitable for Work and Melody in Off the Record. But while I was writing Off the Record, I suddenly saw Liv’s backstory in my mind, a young woman with a bold personality who’s actually super sweet and protective. I could see her in a showdown with Will that ended in a passionate kiss--their first kiss was actually the scene I first ever drafted of that book. So, once I wrapped Off the Record, I got to work turning my antagonist into a badass heroine.
What Is Your Book About?
All of the Anti-Belle books are about smart, talented women (because every person is smart and talented in their own unique way) finding the courage to love themselves enough to claim their “happily ever after.” Every one of them features a lot of emotional growth--and a lot of heat!
Not Suitable for Work is an office place, rivals-to-lovers story. Celeste and Ben are competing for a job. Rivalry they can handle, but the chemistry between them is another story.. Off the Record is a second chance forbidden romance. Nick Field’s motto is “live free.” Mel Thomas works 24/7 as the manager to America’s newest heartthrob. Ten years ago, Nick and Mel were high school sweethearts. Reunited by chance, their forbidden romance ignites into a passionate present. Too bad there’s no future in it. Nemesis is an enemies-to-lovers, brother’s best friend romance. Liv Milani knows she’s “that girl”: bold, loyal, and a little too quick to shoot off her mouth from time to time. But this summer is changing things, and “that girl” is suddenly a woman with a career and goals. Her brother’s best friend and her personal nemesis, Will Langer, is sharing her house for the summer. What begins as a battle of will melts into a secret romance, but Liv will have to battle some demons from her past before she can fall in love.
More books coming soon!
Who Is Your Favorite Character In Your Novel?
I love all of my characters so much that almost all of them wind up having their own stories in the series. Of course all of my main characters are women I’d call my best friends, and I’m madly in love with their love interests. But as an overview, I’ll choose my favorite side character from each novel.
Not Suitable for Work: Eleanor, Celeste’s mom
Off the Record: Jesse, the rock star
Nemesis: Will, because I’m in love with him!
Where Can We Find Your Book?
What is some writing advice you would give to someone entering the writing world?
Tell the story in your head. Don’t worry about what you’re going to do with it, just tell it. There’s time for everything else later on. And don’t think you’re “not a writer” because you don’t do whatever it is other writers do (write every day, publish, etc). Just write because you have a story to tell, and know that that alone is worth the energy.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“Either it’s a hobby, or you want to make something of it.”
“Show, don’t tell.”
Any future projects?
I am working on something new, actually! A story outside of the series, but more than that I really can’t say yet. In the meantime, I’m happily podcasting as half of the Quick & Dirty Romance podcast and releasing a biweekly newsletter full of inspiration, fitness, motivation, and community.
Any Other Works?
Not Suitable for Work is book 1 in the series; Off the Record is 2nd, and Nemesis is 3rd. These are my only published works to date. Each is a standalone contemporary romance set in Nashville, with plenty more to come.
All I want is to light you up. If you read my books, my newsletter, or even just my social media content and smile, then I count that as a deep honor. I want everyone to own their worth and fall in love with themselves--and let everyone else be free to do the same. Everything about the Anti-Belle Series and lifestyle is meant to help you embrace your own beauty. If you feel that once you read my novels, then I’ve done my job.