We are so thrilled and honoured to be hosting Damon Suede all this week as he celebrates the upcoming release of Lickety Split. So everyday, Monday thru Friday we have something special for you from the man himself. Go check out today’s post and don’t forget to enter the not to be missed giveaway and pop back tomorrow for…
Farm WORK: building Hixville and the Hastle farm for Lickety Split
Mary Calmes INTERVIEWS DAMON SUEDE: on happy kink, life-n-death dancing, and the fantasies that don’t fade
by Damon Suede
DS: Thanks so much for letting me spend the week with y’all sharing Lickety Split extras. Today I asked Mary Calmes to interview me. Her book Timing is one of my all-time favorite cowboy romances and when Lickety was nearly finished, I was struggling with one tricky issue and she gave me the ONE note I needed to take the book where it wanted to go. She’s a marvel, and I had a blast doing this interview with her.
Mary, thank you for coming to hold my feet to the fire.
MC: Well, I have a LOT of things I want to ask and know about this book. One of the tropes I love and hate with equal passion is the great misunderstanding. What I hate about it is when everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, could be fixed up if someone just opened their mouth and asked a damn question.
DS: Amen, sister. Drives me nuts!
MC: When I like it is when the misunderstanding can be understood because of heritage or class or some other completely believable reason. I’ve done it a few times that I think have made sense and particularly in Timing.
DS: Actually that’s one of my favorite things about that book! You know how I feel about Timing, my obsessive proselytizing admiration for Rand and Steph. Funny thing, I was just on a panel with Sarah Maclean and she was talking about all the social boundaries in historical and paranormal, and then observed that she didn’t “know how in the hell” contemporary authors sustained the tension and kept the lovers apart for 350 pages. That’s the big challenge in contemporary romance, and it’s why silly misunderstandings frustrate readers so often: it feels facile and prescriptive, like Viagra to firm up the plot.
So much of Timing plays with misconceptions that are grounded in rock solid emotion and logic. The misunderstandings feel important and earned, and they take TIME to untangle properly...some of them extending into later books. LOL It makes for heartstopping anguish and desire… and the happy ending feels earned on a deep level.
MC: It feels the same with Tucker and Patch. You’ve created a dynamic where Patch has thought things about Tucker his whole life that are not true at all but made total sense to his younger self and seem to have lots of credible back-up. So there’s this whole pile of animosity toward the man that we sympathize with as readers. What made you want to start a book with that mess and basically gut their entire relationship?
DS: In a way enemies to lover gives you the best of both worlds: you get all that juicy history that makes for fascinating, textured interactions with the friction already stirred into the mix. Patch is wrong about so much of his past, but then, so is Tucker. Their mistakes make them human and bind them together. You do the same thing with Rand and Steph (...and Jory and Sam in Matter of Time or and Cyrus & Weber in Frog). Gutting the relationship means they have to deal with this actual guy they’re falling for.
Who wants to read about wealthy underwear models who go shark-fishing in their undies before mutual orgasms and an open bar? Carte blanche wish fulfillment sucks. Without friction, fucking wouldn’t feel good! Magic needs to happen, characters need to change, stories need to matter and rip our hearts out before stuffing them back,made whole again and better than new. THAT is how you craft a satisfying emotional rollercoaster.
MC: Tucker is Patch’s boyhood crush, was his father’s friend, and with the age gap—when I first started reading I thought, this is going to bother me. How am I going to get over my feelings that this pairing won’t work for me? And then they did just that, and so much more.
DS: Preach it. Again this May/December collision was a trap I consciously set for myself to see how to navigate it. I knew a daddy/boy dynamic could get creepy and porn-y really quickly. At the same time, that disparity is unquestionably charged and dramatic if you can thread the needle. The loaded relationships and the artistic tightrope add a kinky sizzle. Forbidden fruit packs a wallop. That age gap is powerful because of the riskiness and the potential for real disaster, right?
MC: Tucker seems like a hard character to write, what made you want to?
DS: To kick my own ass? To see if I could? To juggle knives and nitroglycerin? LOL With romance, anything that nudges us into a comfy rut is poison, because the ending’s a given and the tropes are so familiar. I always set myself challenges with each new story: craft challenges, tone challenges, topical challenges. I think that stuff keeps the writing fresh and the Muse amusing. LOL Besides, if I’m going to live with a book and a pair of characters for all that time, I better find them fascinating and fun.
MC: Well I didn’t find Tucker particularly fun at first, but he was fascinating because I couldn’t predict, as I normally can, what his next step would be. And that was when I became hooked. I fell for him hard. But he kept surprising me. What made you dive into the uncomfortable end and not make Tucker the same age as Patch or the jock from high school or something else?
DS: Tucker turned up right away, solid as stone. Writing him was such a joy, so easy, but he had to be significantly older. In a way, the whole book is about being uncomfortable, the way we pick our way through the minefield of our lives. LOL I think that makes for a way more entertaining love story. Soft and rough, baby!
Thing is, I’ve already read the book about the hot jock and and quirky nerd, or the local rogue and the prodigal slicko, about fifty of them each. As a writer, I’m always looking for a way to change the tune or play the game from a fresh angle. Each new project is me trying to push past my comfort zone, otherwise I’m gonna just write the same book every time and die of boredom and fossilization. My fans turn up expecting fireworks and tension and audacity; that’s my damn job, yo! They’d whup my ass if I let them down. LOL You don’t find diamonds digging in a sandbox: give me granite and a case of dynamite.
MC: Pacing is really important in this book and shows in the dancing metaphor with the quick-quick-slow-slow. When Tucker and Patch are angry with each other, things escalate fast and explode, but during the times when they talk or they’re intimate, those are slow. Did the pacing dictate the story, like did you have that in your mind, or is the pacing a result of the where the story carried you?
DS: Because this was an enemies-to-lover romance I kept looking for legitimate points of friction, energy that put them at cross purposes. So much of Patch comes from his urge to haul ass through everything. The more ramped up he got, the more lethargic everyone else became, so he had to sprint through molasses.
Then as I wrote, the contrast in pace leaked into everything: their lifestyles, their disappointments, their conversations, the sex, and their ambitions. In fact when I was doing my first edits, I was checking sunrise/moonrise times (yes really), when I realized all of the events of the book had boiled down to two weeks (rather than the month I’d originally planned). Because I’d been so focused on the pacing, the book literally picked up speed, lickety-split. The rush and compression just felt right.
MC: The types of sex in the book is not something you’ve written before, edging and simple bondage. Why did it have to be that way for this book and why?
DS: Well as with the May/December trope, I knew the story needed to walk right up to all kinds of edges: emotionally, socially, sexually. All that history and spite curdled between these guys, all that crazy baggage they hadn’t unpacked. No way in hell would they just hook up and walk away easy. Their intimacy had to feel important, freaky, and intense. Without question the light bondage and edging in the book came from the characters. If Patch rushed, Tucker needed to take his damn time. Add in all those hours, and rope, and grease, and Patch’s haste and Tucker’s relentless, lazy patience… well, let’s just say the kink grew at its own pace.
Plus with all the complicated history and aggression between them, the power struggle amped the sex and vice versa. Twostepping literally travels quick-quick, slow, slow and that just fit so beautifully...as a theme, as nostalgia, as a reminder, as an echo of their perspectives. So the sex and the dancing and the kink and the characters and the emotional history just wove together under their own steam.
MC: Is the dance synonymous with the men? And throughout the story Tucker seems to know himself far better than Patch does but Patch does know that he’s worthy of love but Tucker does not. What journey was important for each character to take and how does that impact the romance?
DS: Jeez. I never thought of it that way. They ARE a two-step, Patch and Tucker, although I’d never thought to use those words. For Patch, the book brings him home, not to Hixville or the farm, but to his sense of stability and safety. He’s in a hurry, no question, but his happiness isn’t in slowing down, but in finding someone worth standing still for. His age plays a huge part to, coming to adulthood, forgiving the crappy things in his past and making himself live and act like a man.
Tucker has no problem being a man, but he’s so broken and buffeted by his mistakes. All his energy has gone to preserving the little patch of peace he has rather than learning how to move past it. That rooted solidity is sexy, but it traps him. Plus who doesn’t love a rake redeemed? With Tucker in particular, I got to play with regret and deferral, how a good man can build a prison around himself one bar at a time.
How do we know when we’re happy? How do we stay happy with what we said we wanted? How does time change what happiness looks like? A homecoming story has to unpack all that juicy stuff. Loads of emotion for an author to explore.
MC: So… I find it interesting that even though the main character in the book is Patch that he is definitely not the person on the cover. Why is Tucker on the cover and why was that important?
DS: That was a no-brainer for me and Reese Dante totally got what I was going for. A huge component of the story is Patch’s fierce fantasies about cowboys and Texan malehood in general. Plus, the entire book is in Patch’s POV and focuses on his impossible, forbidden attraction to this hot bastard from his past. Tucker’s expression and body language accomplishes so many things, his almost-smile and the hint of invitation in his eyes...and then with the rope over the shoulder? The man’s such a frigging tease! LOL Reese gave me Tucker like he’d ambled in off the street. Amazing.
Plus, I wanted a twofer: before you’ve read the book a reader would think, “He’s hot as balls! Wherever he’s going, I’m coming.” But after they read it and knew Tucker beneath the “sexy cowboy” exterior, they’d think, “You don’t need to flirt, Tucker. Those other folks don’t know you and love you like I do.” Both simultaneously, like a magic eye drawing, depending on your knowledge of the book. :P I needed to put the readers inside of Patch’s POV from the moment the SAW the book, let alone read the blurb or the first sentence. And that was what Reese did so mindfully, she made all of us Patch, looking at Tucker through Patch’s eyes before and after he understands what he’s seeing.
MC: In a way though, Tucker is that mess of gorgeous chaos that we all wanted when we were younger, the hot guy on the motorcycle, the Desperado character, the macho cowboy, and I was so worried that he couldn’t fit into Patch’s world but I didn’t want Patch to lose his hard-won independence either. We all grow up and put the “fantasy” away. How did you navigate that razor’s edge between not changing either man but giving the reader a believable happily ever after?
DS: Oh hell yes! Tough question. Great question. Sometimes I think the secret isn't “how to get what you want” as much as “wanting it after you've got it.”
Fantasy is essential, but so is a life that allows it. So many of our ideas about happily ever afters are based in lack or failure, with any positives defined as the opposite of the negatives we know. If I’m broke I fantasize about zillionaires, if I’m weak I fantasize about crushing my enemies.
Metaphorically Tucker and Patch learn to dance together because that’s how we move together gracefully. Quick-quick, slow, slow. Right? So much of lust is projection and delusion. So much of love is humor and patience and gratitude. Part of Patch learning to be a man is realizing that Tucker never got to be a boy. And Tucker has to see that that Patch’s rush to get free cost him dear. You don’t dance beside someone, you have to dance with them, in a frame of gentle tension, eye to eye with careful footwork.
Sometimes I think as we get older, we don’t change, but we see through clearer, steadier eyes. This is another reason Tucker HAD to be a confident older man, and Patch had to learn how to let go of his fantasies to live in the world. The story had to be a homecoming, no matter where they ended up, but in the end it had to be in the place that built them and put them on a collision course. I think the secret was allowing them, not just to grow, but to grow together the way two trees can start to share one trunk, grounded and growing at the same time.
MC: I love that. Awesome! That’s what I wanted to know. I seriously loved Lickety Split and I’m pretty sure we’ll end up discussing this more. A lot more, down the line.
MC: Yes please. And thanks for working through all these questions. I had a really good time.
DS: Are you kidding? Thank you for the fab interview, milady.
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Due for Release ~ 13th March 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary BDSM Gay Romance
Lickety Split: Love won’t wait.
Patch Hastle grew up in a hurry, ditching East Texas for NYC to make his name as a DJ and model without ever looking back. When his parents die unexpectedly, he heads home to unload the family farm ASAP and skedaddle. Except the will left Patch’s worst enemy in charge: his father’s handsome best friend who made his high school years hell.
Tucker Biggs is going nowhere. Twenty years past his rodeo days, he’s put down roots as the caretaker of the Hastle farm. He knows his buddy’s smartass son still hates his guts, but when Patch shows up growed-up, looking like sin in tight denim, Tucker turns his homecoming into a lesson about old dogs and new kinks.
Patch and Tucker fool around, but they can’t fool themselves. Once the farm’s sold, they mean to call it quits and head off to separate sunsets. With the clock ticking, the city slicker and his down-home hick get roped into each other’s life. If they’re gonna last longer than spit on a griddle, they better figure out what matters—fast.
Also by Damon Suede
Meet Damon Suede
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.
Meet Mary Calmes
Mary Calmes lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and two children and loves all the seasons except summer. She graduated from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, with a bachelor's degree in English literature. Due to the fact that it is English lit and not English grammar, do not ask her to point out a clause for you, as it will so not happen. She loves writing, becoming immersed in the process, and falling into the work. She can even tell you what her characters smell like. She loves buying books and going to conventions to meet her fans.
Advance and signed copies... an early ecopy of LICKETY SPLIT the weekend before it’s available and a signed print copy after it releases along with a pile swaggy extras.
Just in case you missed this weeks Featured Posts from Damon Suede
Monday: Day One… SWOON TIME: finding the right dirt to fall down in.
Tuesday: Day Two… Mary Calmes INTERVIEWS DAMON SUEDE: on happy kink, life-n-death dancing, and the fantasies that don’t fade