Friday, March 22, 2013

Character Interview #1 - Jeff and Austin from A VINTAGE AFFAIR


I see them walk into the Magnolia Room, the bar at the Stonewall Jackson Inn where they first really started to get to know each other. Austin is talking, Jeff is listening, smiling faintly, his gaze taking in the nearly empty room. He spots me, touches Austin’s elbow. Austin breaks off what he was saying, looking a little wary.
 

For some reason I always think of Austin as blond, but it’s Jeff who is blond. Austin has dark hair and the boyishly pouty, unthreateningly exotic looks you’d expect of a Calvin Klein underwear model – though he’s not remotely the pouty type and his modeling days are long behind him. Jeff has a more straightforward handsomeness. Those all American good looks that effectively sell so many pick up trucks and pairs of Levis.
 

“Red or white?” Jeff asks and Austin shakes his head, amused.
 

“Surprise me.”
 

Jeff goes to the bar and Austin comes over to the table to greet me.  We get the preliminaries out of the way, and I ask, “Does he often?”
 

Austin is still smiling, still wary. “Does he what?”
 

“Surprise you?”
 

He relaxes a fraction. “Yes. As a matter of fact, he does.” The look he throws Jeff, now busily charming the lady bartender, is affectionate.
 

“So how are things going? Where are you living now?”
 

Austin tunes back in. “We’ve been doing the long distance thing, but as of last weekend…” he expels a long breath, “we’re homeowners. We bought a house in Buckhead.” His smile is happy, even content.
 

“So you’re relocating to Georgia?” I admit that’s a surprise. I thought it was more likely they’d move north.
 

“It’s easier for me to relocate than Jeff. He’s got contacts here, both in law enforcement and the community. It would take him years to build that network up again. Whereas I can work from home a lot of the time.” He shrugs.
 

“But you’re not living in Madison?”
 

“No.” There’s a pause before he adds, “Buckhead gives us both a little breathing room.”
 

Jeff rejoins us. He sets a glass of white wine in front of Austin. “Muscadine Supreme. From Georgia Winery.”
 

Austin makes a hm sound and gently swirls the wine to release the bouquet. We watch as he sniffs the glass thoughtfully. He hms again and Jeff smiles faintly, tolerantly. He’s drinking beer which he raises toward me in greeting.
 

We wait as Austin tilts the wine glass and checks the color. Finally he takes a sip. He considers.
 

“So you’re still in the PI business, Jeff?” I ask as Austin takes his iPhone out and makes notes.
 

Jeff nods.
 

“How’s that pay?”
 

“Enough.”
 

Of course, they’re not hurting for money. Austin inherited a bundle when Harrison passed away.
 

“Have you solved any more mysteries?”
 

Jeff says briefly, “Every day.” Austin looks up at that he and Jeff exchange funny little half-smiles. Private smiles.
 

“What are you doing now, Austin?”
 

Austin’s face gets that closed look again. Guarded. “Writing mostly. Exploring the possibilities.”
 

“Like?”
 

“He’s had a lot of offers,” Jeff says. “Anybody’d be lucky to have him.”
 

Austin grimaces.
 

“I think he ought to open his own winery,” Jeff says.
 

“It’s not that easy, Jeff. It’s not just about money or even land.”
 

“You could do it.”
 

Austin is shaking his head.
 

“How’s Ernest?” I ask, since that seems like a safe topic.
 

Jeff chokes on his beer. Austin bites his lip and tries not to laugh. He answers, “Ernest is  building a rocket.”
 

“His second rocket,” Jeff says. “The first one blew up.”
 

“Do you see much of him?”
 

Austin says, “He’s at school right now. But I try to see him every couple of weekends.”
 

“What does Ernest think of Jeff?”
 

Jeff says gravely, imitating Ernest’s adult-sounding tone, “An interesting specimen, Austin.”
 

Austin laughs. “He didn’t say that. Not exactly.”                                          
 

When Jeff chuckles, his eyes crinkle. He drinks his beer and doesn’t bother to argue. 
 

“What do the assorted and various stepmothers thinks of you two getting together?”
 

“Assorted and various things,” Jeff drawls.
 

Austin smiles faintly, watching him.
 

“Do you ever see the Cashels?”
 

“Naw,” says Jeff.
 

“I met Cormac for lunch when he came to New York to meet his publisher.”
 

“That was your good deed for the year,” Jeff responds.
 

“He’s okay.” Austin shrugs dismissingly.
 

I say, “You know, a lot of readers thought you two wouldn’t last.”
 

“Us?” Austin seems genuinely startled.
 

Jeff’s mouth twists, but he doesn’t say anything. He seems more interested in Austin’s response. 
 

“What’s been the biggest challenge for you?”
 

Austin’s brows draw together as he considers. Jeff answers that one. “Trying to make it work long distance. Plus Austin travels a lot. This winter he was backpacking for a month in South America. I think I heard from him a total of three times. I had no idea if he was alive or dead.”
 

Austin makes a pained face. “You’d probably hear if I was dead.”
 

“That makes me feel a whole helluva lot better.”
 

I interrupt, “What’s the most fun about being together?”
 

“All of it,” Austin says.  

Jeff meets his direct gaze unhesitatingly. “Yeah, no matter how much time we spend together, it’s not enough. So we’re buying this house onChatham Road.” 
 

“Chinese wallpaper in the dining room,” Austin says. Apparently that’s a good thing.
 

“What do you fight about?”
 

“Chinese wallpaper?” Jeff suggests.
 

 “We don’t really fight,” Austin says.
 

Jeff states, “We disagree over Austin’s notion that it’s okay to veer from his itinerary without letting anyone know, and that it doesn’t matter if he forgets to check in for a week.”
 

Austin expels a long breath but doesn’t argue. They’ve been over this ground once or twice. He says, “Nobody has ever shot at me when I’m working.”
 

Jeff opens his mouth. I interrupt, “What have you each learned from the other?”
 

Austin says, “To phone home regularly.”
 

Jeff laughs. He says, “That the right person makes a difference.”
 

“To what?”
 

“To everything.”
 

“He means sex.” Austin is teasing Jeff. Jeff looks mildly uncomfortable, but that’s not the surprise. The surprise is that Austin is so relaxed that he can joke about something that was surely painful to remember at one time.
 

Jeff says almost stubbornly, “I mean everything.”
 

Their gazes hold briefly. Austin inclines his head as though acknowledging a point.
 

“What do you laugh about?”
 

Jeff says confidentially, “Well, when Austin gets excited he has this little trick—”
 

Jeff.”
 

Jeff laughs.
 

“Bastard,” Austin says without heat. Jeff is still laughing, and after a moment Austin joins in.
 

Which answers that question – and probably all the rest of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

49 comments:

  1. Thank you for this lovely coda! You realise that you could have used it as a bribe for votes? But much better that it's an unsolicited reward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It just didn't seem fair to bribe you with something I had already promised! ;-)

      Delete
  2. Aw, this is great. I love these two. Jeff speshally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it!

      And hope you're now enjoying your weekend. ;-)

      Delete
  3. Thank you! What a wonderful surprise to start the morning with! I was wondering how Jeff and Austin were doing so it's lovely to hear from them :)
    KC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was fun to write.

      Delete
  4. I also notice that it's character interview #1... who's next? (and yay Irregulars too :))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The vote went to Finn and Con from Lovers and Other Strangers for next month.

      Delete
    2. Ah, yes, i remember now. Cool! can't wait to hear what they've been up to :-)

      Delete
  5. Thank you, Josh, not only for the delightful Interview, but for finding the time to do it. And thanks, too, for letting us tour their soon-to-be new home.

    Your huge promo bit for DABWAHA took a lot of time, but it all paid off. Congrats on your Round One win.

    As always, you are the best. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Susan. I definitely want to remember to do this fun stuff for readers. :-)

      It can't all be stumping for votes!

      Delete
  6. Lovely interview! And "their house" is just so beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that house amazing? I figured they needed a nice one to make up for each sacrificing their home base.

      Delete
  7. Thanks for this, Josh. I love the follow-up with Jeff and Austin and I especially love the Atlanta/Buckhead house. Many houses in the Buckhead area have restored carriage houses in the back...perhaps Jeff and Austin would let me move in? I'm a very quiet neighbor. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. That just made me smile, and the house on Chatham was just the perfect touch. Thank you. It was nice to see them again.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Okay! Please stop doing this (not really)! You have caused me no amount of trouble this day. You see, as a lil ol' lady (debatable on the lady part) retired librarian, I have railed and resisted Kindle and Nook and all manner of readers. I LIKE BOOKS!!! You know, the kind you can hold in your hand and turn pages of? So, what did I do after reading your little coda? Wandered over to Amazon and downloaded the Kindle app for PCs and bought Vintage Affair. You are a devil (I mean that in the nicest way).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bwahahahaha! But at least you can download a free ap and didn't have to buy a kindle or a nook! :-D

      Delete
    2. I am a whiner, am I not? I think I could have done this iPod or smartphone, but seems the type would be too small, or I would have only three words per page.

      Enjoy your weekend. I've almost finished the book.

      Delete
  10. Jeff is right. The right person makes all the difference :-)
    I wish Ernest is gay, so you can write a separate m/m romance (or thriller!) with him. He's awesome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ernest is one of my favorite side characters. :-D

      Delete
  11. You made me smile widely all the way through this interview... I think I won't stop smiling for a while either. :-)

    And hey, the "interactive" house tour part was cool! And the way Austin took out his iPhone and started making wine notes was... so Austin. ;-)

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent! Wasn't that interactive house tour fun? Serendipity on that one.

      Delete
  12. I really enjoyed the Christmas Codas but I especially enjoyed this little peek into Jeff and Austin. I like that your characters have to work a bit to get (and maintain) their 'happily ever afters', and I was happy to discovery these two are no exception. They're becoming a couple without becoming a cliche. Bravo to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw. Thank you, Steve. :-) I wanted readers to know they're okay!

      Delete
  13. Thanks, Josh.
    Wasn't expecting this (where was I when this plan was hatched?) What a nice little morsel in my Facebook "box" after a long week. Looking forward to next month's tidbit.
    Kelly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was about two months ago on the fan page when I was soliciting ideas for what people wanted to see. Character interviews it turns out. So then last month we had a little vote between obscure couples and whadya know! Jeff and Austin won.

      Delete
  14. Hi Josh, fabulous interview,I did like this one even though I still cringe at the madeira at the end - yech! Hate the stuff, if I'm having a fortified wine it has to be sherry and if it's after dinner it has to be Pedro Ximenes dark oloroso, Christmas Pudding in a glass! I loved the house too, and I am delighted that you spend time poking about on estate agent websites...is that realtor in American? And gorgeous as the house was I was delighted to see that they still write gruesome English, apostrophes in all the wrong places and cliches clattering like broken china in the sink!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL Well, better broken punctuation than broken windows or creaky stairs, right?

      Delete
  15. Those four posters are as romantic as Jeff and Austin. Thank you, Josh.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This was very enjoyable. Thank you. When you had the vote, I didn't realize you were planning to do more than one. Reading that was quite thrilling. It is like getting a tax refund when you think you will owe!! Loved the house tour. You are very creative.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I figure one a month, if I can manage it. :-)

      Delete
  17. You're right, Josh. I didn't really think Jeff and Austin gonna make it last with the long distance and everything. This proved me wrong though! ;)

    And the Chantam house is lovely, by the way. Thank you for writing this, Josh!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try never to give my characters obstacles they don't have the tools to overcome. ;-)

      Delete
  18. I didn't see the original poll, so was surprised to see this! Thank you so much for the treat :) It's so great to see Austin and Jeff are doing well (^▽^) And wow, what a posh house!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh, this was wonderful! I'm so glad to see them further on in their relationship. And to see how comfortable they are with each other, and the exchanging of looks where they understand each other without words. *happy sigh* I'm happy to see things working out for Austin and Jeff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so pleased everyone is enjoying this!

      Delete
  20. Hi again, Josh.

    After reading your delightful interview I decided it was time to reread the original story. While doing so I realized that Austin & Jeff have the same first name initials as Adrien & Jake. I don't recall this ever being asked about. Was this a conscious decision on your part, or just happenstance? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not deliberate. In fact, I can't believe I never noticed!

      Delete
    2. Perhaps you have a friend or relative called AJ. :)

      Delete
    3. :-D They must be my lucky letters!

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  21. I LOVE this! Thank you! Looks like I have some reading to do for next months interview. I haven't gotten to Finn and Con yet. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I'll have to read Finn and Con's story again before I try to write their interview.

      Delete
  22. You know, I was only thinking the other day it was time for a reread of A Vintage Affair, so this delightful interview was very timely! I for one never doubted Jeff and Austin would make it. Every story I read has a very happy ending, regardless of the author's intent. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's power! I admit author intent sways me, even when I think the author got it wrong.

      Glad you enjoyed the interview!

      Delete