Josh, thanks so much for having me here! I’m delighted to be here today as part of the Heat Trap blog tour. JL
JL - Your sig line reads Award-winning gay romance with a dash of humour. And no tea.AND NO TEA??!! Are you sure you're English? Are you POSITIVE?
OTHER JL - *climbs on soapbox* Look, let me get one thing straight. The English=tea drinker thing is a total myth, perpetuated by BBC exports such as Midsomer Murders and Downton Abbey...
*climbs off soapbox; cries*
Okay, okay, I admit it. The British Isles are awash with infusions of Camellia sinensis. It’s just me who’s immune to its tannin-laced allure. What can I say? I just don’t like the stuff. Never have. Oh, I tried to like it, when I was younger. I tried for years. I didn’t come out as a non tea drinker until well into my teens. I just smiled, and choked the vile stuff down, because that’s what you do, isn’t it? It’s a social convention.
Even in adulthood, long after I’d given myself over to the blissful joys of the coffee bean, I’d occasionally find myself keeping quiet about my unusual tastes and just drinking the stuff down. It’s one thing proudly telling your contemporaries you never touch the stuff. But elderly relatives? They’re from a different world. They wouldn’t understand.
God rest you, Auntie Margaret, with your buttered tea loaf and your ever-full teapot. I hope you can look down on me now, as I fill my cafetière with rich, sensuously aromatic coffee grinds, and not condemn.
JL - The protagonist of your Plumber's Mate series is Tom Paretski (a little nod to Sara there?) and he is indeed a plumber. A psychic plumber with a talent for finding things, but a plumber all the same. What made you choose that particular highly unglamorous profession for Tom?
Ms Merrow - Well, there was this rather good-looking young man who came to fix my bath taps one day... *g*.
Actually, in all seriousness, Tom is the one of my characters who has been evolving the longest. I had the idea for a plumber with a minor psychic talent (less of a medium; more of a small, as the late, great Sir Pterry Pratchett would have said) many years ago—way before I was ever published. I remember one night in Budapest, sketching out ideas on a bar napkin. (This may sound pretentious, but is actually true. And pretentious.) All of which I promptly put on hold for years after, until I was a bit more confident with this writing gig.
But you know what? I like unglamorous professions for my protagonists. It’s fun. There are so many big, butch heroes out there with big, butch professions. I like writing about guys who don’t have all that going for them, but are sexy nonetheless. Witness my rat catcher in Caught! who was born out of a Yahoo group discussion on least sexy professions.
(And, you know, that young man with the taps was rather good looking.)
JL - So tell us about the new book HEAT TRAP. This is the third one in the series, so that's usually a turning point. Is that the case here?
MM - Ooh, I did not know that. No, seriously, I didn’t. And yet... Tom will be at a very different place in his life, in some ways, in book 4. And no, I’m not telling you in what ways. No spoilers! ;)
Heat Trap has Tom and Phil coming to the aid of a recurring character in the books, Harry Shire, the landlady of the Devil’s Dyke pub—or rather, to the aid of her newest barmaid, Marianne, who’s being stalked by her ex. It’s set during a rare British heatwave, so fuses are short and tempers frayed all round...
JL - Do you have any food allergies? Do you have a funny food allergy story to share? Here on this blog We love stories about people who blow up like balloons, turn purple and start to choke. Do you have a story like that? ;-D
MM - I am boringly unallergic. But avocado makes me sick as a dog—will that do? ;) Also bananas. And some strange cheese in Slovenia, that wasn’t cheese at all but made from pig fat *shudders at the memory*.
And for an island-born writer with the name Merrow, I’m ridiculously reluctant to eat fish.
*thinks about it*
Or perhaps it all makes perfect sense, now... ;)
JL - What's your writing schedule like? Do you write full-time?
MM - I do. Which, to the non-writer, probably conjures up images of the author sitting down at the keyboard at 9am and tapping away solidly until clocking off at 5pm (with appropriate breaks for the consumption of food and vast quantities of caffeine etc.) Unfortunately, my muse is a total slacker about afternoons. So the creative stuff tends to resume in the evening, slotted uneasily around helping offspring with German homework, explaining that yes, I studied chemistry in my first year at university but no, I can’t remember any of it, and occasionally, even getting to sit down and watch the telly.
JL - Do you believe in ghosts?
MM - I’ve never seen one. But there a lot of people out there who believe they have, so who am I to judge?
JL - Is there any genre you'd like to tackle but you're kinda sorta afraid? I always ask this question but in your case it might be irrelevant because you've written in so many different genres. Do you have a favorite?
MM - Yea, verily, I am a jack of all trades... I do like to dabble in different genres, it’s true. Hmm. I’m not sure there’s anything I’d like to try which I haven’t. As for favourites... Well, it’s probably the light-hearted contemporary stuff. But I’ve just finished a historical, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing for a change.
One genre you are unlikely to ever see me try is epic fantasy. I used to read scads of it in my youth, but writing it? I cannot be doing with all that world-building. WAY too much like hard work.
JL - writers are notoriously unhealthy. What is one healthy thing you do on a regular basis?
MM - I go to the gym three times a week. To which people often say, “You must be really fit.” And I reply, “You would think so, wouldn’t you?” Sadly, all my time on the rowing machine is largely negated by days spent sitting staring at the computer screen exercising only my fingers (on the keyboard, good heavens, what on earth were you thinking?) and by a wicked red wine and cheese habit. But on the plus side, I get a lot of writing ideas in the gym. You may suspect this is due to the number of young, fit bodies one tends to see there. I couldn’t possibly comment. ;)
JL - I notice a lot of my British writing friends are beginning to sound a wee bit militant about the "Americanization" of their work through publishers here in the States. What's that about? Why do you feel it's so important to retain that British feel and tone? Think of how these publishers are saving you from all those reviews that cite "misspellings" in your work! ;-D
MM - Heh, I’m not as militant as some—to be shamefully honest, I can never even remember if it’s supposed to be whiskey or whisky, and I’m more-or-less blind to missed-out “u’s”. But I do draw the line at having British characters say “ass” or “gotten”—IF, that is, they’re out of their teens. It’s amazing how Americanised teen language has become over the last ten years or so. Chiefly, it’s amazing it’s taken so long, given how much American TV we watch over here!
What it comes down to is being true to the character. If you’re not true to the character, then the reader who can spot that will be pulled out of the story. Who wants that? And let’s face it, we Brits can cope with Americans saying “ass” and even “fanny” when they mean bum (although the second one makes us squirm a bit). I think it’s rather disrespectful to American readers to assume they need protecting from the odd arse.
JL - What do you love most about writing? What do you find most challenging?
Okay, that’s not terribly helpful. Hmm. What comes most easily to me, without a doubt, is dialogue. Raymond Chandler famously said, “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” When I’m in doubt as to where to go in a story, I get a couple of characters to walk through the door and have a bit of a natter.
What doesn’t come so easily is plotting. Which, obviously, is why I started writing mysteries...
JL - When it comes to friends and family are you better at giving or receiving advice?
MM - Oh, giving, yes indeedy. Nuff said.
JL - What are you working on next?
MM - I’m currently working on Book #3 of The Shamwell Tales, which has the snappy yet evocative working title of Shamwell 3. It features, as one of the main couple, a side character from Shamwell #2, otherwise known as Played! (due out June 2015) After that, I’ll be working on a leap year themed novel, due out by a staggering coincidence (not) on 29th February 2016. After that... Well, I would say it’ll be Plumber’s Mate #4, but a couple of the characters in Shamwell 3 are showing increasing signs of demanding their own story, so who knows...?
Giveaway: I’m offering a free ebook from my backlist (including Heat Trap) to a randomly chosen commenter on this post.
And there’s a grand prize of a signed paperback copy of book #2 in my Plumber’s Mate series, the EPIC award finalist Relief Valve, plus a pair of rainbow-coloured merino wool blend wrist-warmers, hand-knitted by the author, for one lucky commenter on the tour.
I’m happy to ship internationally, and the more blog posts you comment on, the more chances you get!
Please remember to leave an email addy in your comment so I can get in touch with you if you win.
I’ll be making the draws around teatime on Wednesday 1st April, GMT (no joke!)
Good luck! :D
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novella Muscling Through was a 2013 EPIC Award finalist, and her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy. Her novel Relief Valve is a finalist in the 2015 EPIC Awards.
JL Merrow is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com, on Twitter as @jlmerrow, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jl.merrow
It’s been six months since plumber Tom Paretski was hit with a shocking revelation about his family. His lover, P.I. Phil Morrison, is pushing this as an ideal opportunity for Tom to try to develop his psychic talent for finding things. Tom would prefer to avoid the subject altogether, but just as he decides to bite the bullet, worse problems come crawling out of the woodwork.
Marianne, a young barmaid at the Devil’s Dyke pub, has an ex who won’t accept things are over between them. Grant Carey is ruthless in dealing with anyone who gets between him and Marianne, including an old friend of Tom and Phil. Their eagerness to step in and help only makes them targets of Grant’s wrath themselves.
With Tom’s uncertainty about Phil’s motives, Tom’s family doing their best to drive a wedge between them, and the revelation of an ugly incident in Phil’s past, suddenly Tom’s not sure whom he can trust.
The body in the Dyke’s cellar isn’t the only thing that stinks.
Warning: Contains British slang, a very un-British heat wave, and a plumber with a psychic gift who may not be as British as he thinks he is.