Hey, J.M., thanks for joining me for today’s Author Q and A.
Okay, Let’s jump right into it!
You have written so many books and novellas up to this point. Thinking back to your very first, what inspired you to write?
I’ve written all my life, since I was eight and had creative writing in school. I wrote the worst poem known to the literary world, but later won an award for stories. Yet the moment I knew I didn’t want to do anything else was when I was thirteen and I read Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. I gotten into Kesey, Kerouac, Ginsberg and the Beat Writers/Poets. I read Naked Lunch a 1950s junkie novel, the frenetic energy, the rawness and all, I said I wanted to write that.
It resonated with my brain, it was around that time that I started dealing with Mental Illness. It made me not feel so weird and that probably makes me weird. I never anticipated writing romance, but my Body Positivity philosophy made me want to write romance for all body types, shapes and sizes. Readers seeing themselves in my books is what keeps me going, while I write my weirdness in the background.
I never read a story about a trans character before, at least not as a main character, what inspired you to make that choice?
Transgender Men are shown in MM Romance, but what I saw of Transwomen in the romance genre were a lot of stereotypical fetishization stories. I’m not saying that’s all you can find in Trans Romance, but a good portion of it is. I wanted to write stories that put Trans Women in the starring roles where they can get those HEAs their cisgender sisters get so easily. The news and statistics show that Transwomen are vulnerable to violence. So for me, showing my Trans Sisters finding their happily ever after’s in a respectful and positive way was natural for me. It goes with my Body Positive/Diverse beliefs. Every Body is Worthy of Love and Respect.
Can you share briefly what your writing process is like?
Writing for me is a part of my routine. I do forty-five minute sprints throughout the day. Sometimes writing up to ten hours a day. Strict schedules work well for me when writing and I rarely give myself a deadline only because I tend to work on several projects at once and publish whatever is finished first.
Do you have any advice for first time novelists?
This might be controversial advice, but right what you love and avoid the trends. I find that once you start writing to market you’re locked into that by readers. To me I believe readers can tell when you’re forcing a story you’re not feeling. Being different isn’t easy, it’s a lot of taking hits to your pride, but in the end I’d prefer to write something unique every time than write the same book on repeat. Trends come and go, what’s popular today might be totally ignored tomorrow. So, as I said, write what you love. Write your passion.
Ok, ok enough of all the serious stuff. What’s your favorite color?
Outside of romance, what is your favorite genre to read?
To be honest, and I’ll probably hear the collective gasps, but I don’t read a lot of romance. I write the romance I want to read. I’m typically Urban Fantasy, Horror or Nonfiction. My weakness for political science is ridiculous.
If Claiming Whisper was an ice cream flavor which would it be?
Something coffee flavored.
What was your proudest moment when you were 5 years old?
I barely remember what I did yesterday much less when I was five. So I have no idea.
If you had a super power, what would it be?
Not having to sleep. At this point in history, sleep should be voluntary.
Where would you visit that you haven’t already gone?
There’s a ton of places I wanted to visit, but I think the one I want to see the most is Ireland.
What pizza topping do you hate?
Green peppers and Onions, pizza or not, they’re not my favorite.
Alright now, one last question before we wrap it up. Are you working on anything that my friends and I can look forward to?
I have so many stories in the works under J.M. Dabney and my alter ego, Siobhan Smile. I’m back in my Powers Universe, Masiello Brothers, and Yuri Sorenson Mysteries with J.M. Dabney. Siobhan has some Daddy/Mommy stories along with some Domestic Discipline stories coming. There’s so much I can’t really say what’s coming out next.
Thanks so much, J.M., for taking the time to answer a few of my questions! And to all of my friends out there, be sure to check back for more Author Q and A sessions in Cozy Carter Chats!
As we drove to wherever he was taking me, I still had Asa on my mind.
“You’re thinking too loud. Tell me what happened.”
Craig did not believe in beating around the bush. He’d been the one to hit on me first our freshmen year of college, and he’d been the one to break it off, telling me we would make much better friends. He wasn’t wrong then and when it came to facing things head-on, he’d rarely ever been. I thought, or over thought, and Craig leaped.
“Fine. I’ll talk. But, I swear not one I told you so at least until I’m done.”
Making a ridiculously big show of zipping his lips, my annoying best friend and ex gave me the nod to go ahead and then focused back on the road to let me get it all out.
“The only reason I even considered stepping foot in that church or dealing with that sanctimonious blowhard Bishop Chambers was that I thought I’d get to see Asa. He would be forced to engage at least a little or be considered rude. When he wasn’t around the past two summers for youth sports, I realized how much I missed him. Look, even I know you can’t just go around hunting down folks’ contact information and asking them out. I know that’s what you would have done, but most people wouldn’t.”
“Talk like that is gonna have me commenting.”
“I digress. I get how unreasonable all of this sounds out loud. In my head, though, it made perfect sense. I believe in divine order and this is meant to be, trust me. I would not have spent the last eighteen months celibate without good reason. I have respected his age, his fear, and his hiding. I learned what it meant to want to pick up that daddy title. I am ready to bring myself to him. To take care of him. I worked on myself. I cleaned up my own less than stellar behavior.”
“You mean your man-whore ways?”
“That is not keeping it zipped.”
“But it wasn’t I told you so either. Carry on.”
“Look, when I came back to work youth sports the first time and he was one of the counselors I was thrilled. I thought, surely, he’s out by now. He’d been away at college for two years, but he was like a nervous cat around me. Plus, his mother was like a hovercraft. Adult or not, that woman would’ve reported me for whatever lewd act is still on the books in Tennessee and had me arrested. So, I pushed it out of my mind.”
When Craig only looked at me without comment, I took it as a green light to proceed. It was hard to believe he either didn’t have a comment or was able to hold it.
“Bruh, he was responding to me all summer. I thought the boy has got to be out by now. He hung out with the group sometimes. We talked about all sorts of things, scriptures, and he even shared that he was considering the ministry. Then there were the looks he gave me and the ones I caught were screaming go, go. I figured I would take him out during the last week after the camp was done and he was on board. All I did was touch his shoulder and I know he felt it too.”
Craig looked at me from the corner of his eye. “Shut up. I know it was there. I know what I felt.”
“The spark. Yeah, you’ve mentioned that a few hundred times.”
“We were good, man. I’m telling you. Even if he never came right out and said, ‘I’m gay and into you.’ He was feeling me. We were ten minutes from making an exit when his mother texted. I watched the light go out of his eyes. I don’t know what her message said, but he turtled up. The retreat was instantaneous. It wasn’t just that he rejected me or backed out of our plans. He backed out of being himself. I wanted to hug him to me and tell him it was going to be okay and that he could be honest with me and, for god’s sake, with himself.”
“You can’t snatch somebody out of the closet.”
“I didn’t want to snatch him out. I just wanted to take the nails out of the door. His mother and Bishop Blowhard had him boarded up tight.”
“Maybe Bishop Blowhard needs to be blown hard. A man can get really reasonable after a powerful orgasm.”
We pulled up to the restaurant, and I looked at Craig over the roof of his car. “And what would your plan be for his mother?”
Craig laughed out loud. Yeah, he wouldn’t be volunteering to help with that situation. When he settled down and caught his breath, he waved for me to come around the hood of the car. “Come on. Oh, and I’m getting the bottomless mimosas.”
“You always get them.”
“Yeah, but today you’re buying, so I thought it was worth restating.”
“Asa Watkins, say yes already. You know I’m going to wear you down. I always do.”
Bess was the only person in my life who started phone conversations like we were already in the middle of them. It was like she always started without you and expected you to catch up.
“I don’t have time, Bess. I already explained this to Mama when she called half an hour ago. Which, for the record, was a cheap stunt. The two of you do not have me figured out so easily.”
My mouth said I didn’t have time, but I knew she was right. Bess, my best friend since the age of five, knew me like a book, and she also knew I couldn’t refuse her. We’ve done the good, the bad, and the outlandish together, and no matter my level of initial resistance, I eventually give in every time.
“It’s a couple of nights a week for like two weeks. You already know the songs; we just have to see what spin Maurice is going to put on it.”
“Is he really still tinkering with the arrangements on the music we’ve all done a million times? That man is the only choir director I’ve known who can’t ever leave things straight forward.”
She knew I already turned down my mama’s request to come back and sing in Bishop Chambers’ anniversary choir. This was their way, though. Mama used guilt, and when that didn’t work, Bess would bully me and pull the best friend card. What kind of chance did I stand?
I was never in a hurry to return to the fire and brimstone environment that man created. Right and wrong were extremely black and white in the Bishop’s eyes, and he made sure everyone knew that his eyes and what they saw were all that mattered. I could probably get through it, but I didn’t want to. The best part about being forty-five minutes from home for college was that I could get there quickly in an emergency, but could feign exhaustion and distance when I didn’t really want to be bothered.
“Are you listening to me?” Bess was using her ‘do not ignore me’ voice.
“I’m here and all ears.”
“Now, you know Bishop doesn’t work on his anniversary Sunday, so he’s bringing in a guest preacher.”
“So? I don’t want to hear any of them spell out why I’m going to hell, either.”
“Oh, you’ll like this one. It’s Malik Creswell.”
Oh, my Lord. Did she say Malik Creswell? From Mercy High School? He’d been a young guidance counselor during our freshman and sophomore years, and the basketball coach.
“Yes, that Malik, and you already know that.”
“Did I say that out loud?”
Bess was full belly laughing at this point. For a best friend, my discomfort often amused her greatly.
“Asa, I’ve been able to read your thoughts for years, and when it comes to Malik, it’s not even a fair fight.”
Straddling the arm of my couch was getting uncomfortable, and I had too many questions. I slid off and onto the corner cushion to begin my interrogation.
“Why would Bishop ask Malik? He’s the anti-Bishop. Modern, forward-thinking, openly gay, and I’m willing to bet he’s not saving himself for marriage.”
“I sure hope not. When you two finally figure it out and hook up, somebody has to bring experience to the table.”
“You act like I’m a virgin.”
“Oh, please. Missy Holbrook does not count in this situation, or any situation. She was showing her panties to boys for a Jolly Rancher in the second grade. You started driving before any of us, so I’m not surprised she put out for a ride. And don’t get me started on Lance. That lying closet case. Talking about, he kissed you on a bet. Whatever, we are way off-topic. I will send you the rehearsal schedule. Pick out something nice to wear. You have two weeks. I love you and don’t even think about weaseling out of this, or I’ll call your mama back on you.”
I listened to silence for a full minute before I realized she’d ended the call.
The Call For Help
"Who is this? Nessa?"
Kim rolled away from her boyfriend bolting upright fully disturbed by the tears and panic coming through the phone line from her baby sister. Okay, so she wasn't really a baby. But, she was the youngest of the three siblings and a sixteen year old junior in high school, who by every test given was classified as more than just a little bit brilliant.
"Ness, you really have to calm down. Honey I can hardly understand you. Daddy. What? Prison. Mrs. Sculdini. A convent. Fails. Auditors? Vanessa, stop! Dad's sending Mrs. Sculdini to prison for failing a convent audit? What the hell are you talking about? Have you and your little friends been hittin' the wacky-tabacky as Bubba would say?"
Dale was watching his petite girlfriend go from passionate to frustrated right before his eyes. He couldn't make out a lot of the other side of the call, but he sensed, from her body language, that it wasn't good news. When he heard her stories or witnessed her dealing with either of her siblings Dale became infinitely grateful that he was an only child.
Kim finally hung up the phone looking anything but relieved. Hopping off the bed she started looking for her shoes, keys and other stuff strewn around her boyfriend's apartment. Suddenly she couldn't think clearly. She wanted, no she needed fresh air because she needed a solution fast. From what she gathered from the sob filled conversation with her sister odds were there was a road trip in her very near future.
"Kimberly you're making me very nervous. What is going on?"
"Babe, I'm really sorry, but my sister needs me. She got herself into some trouble that she's going to have a hard time getting out of, on her own. I gotta go!"
"Well, at least let me drive you. You look too upset to be behind the wheel of a car."
"That's sweet, but then you'll need a ride back and it's just…" Kim leaned over to kiss him before darting to the door.
"I'll call when I get in I promise."
The door closed behind her and he'd barely gotten his shirt buttoned or his shoes on. Clearly something was amiss in the Wright family.
Replaying her sister's end of the conversation in her mind gave Kim something to do while she waited for Xan to call her back. She didn't know anyone who'd been in more trouble than him in her entire life. Logic dictated that he couldn't have gotten in that much trouble without figuring out at least a couple of ways to get out of it.
Vanessa Louise Wright had really dug a ditch she couldn't get out of this time. Apparently she was a few days away from expulsion from Hilton Prep. She was flunking out not because she couldn't do the work, but because she-for reasons Kim did not understand-didn't go to class. The spiral effect had taken hold of the situation with a vice grip and was out of control. She knew passing the class wasn't going to happen, so instead she intercepted the notices that had gone home to their parents. The little brat set up a P.O. box and had all of the school mail diverted to it. She'd been forging signatures for over a month. Basically all she did was put off the inevitable thought Kim. Christmas break was coming and their dad always picked them up. Someone was bound to intercept and tell him.
When she did finally go back to class she couldn't do enough work to pull the grade out of the toilet. Vanessa's solution was to hack into the school grading system and give herself the grades she wanted. The nefarious little computer wiz didn't stop there though, she also gave unearned and far more acceptable passing grades to nearly half the girls in her house. Finally, the icing on the cake was that the principal called for an audit of the teacher's grade books strangely enough for reasons having nothing to do with the little genius' shenanigans. There was a rumor of an illicit affair between one of the male teachers and an honor roll senior student and now the ugly truth was about to come out in torrents.
Kim stopped folding her clothes, for the third time, picked up the phone and got ready to relay the tale from hell.
"Hey Xan. It took you long enough to call back. If I left that many messages it must be important. No. No. No. Not that either. It has nothing to do with me actually. So, please stop guessing. Right like he'd call me first if something was going on. It’s Nessa, Sherlock. This time plenty. She's gonna get kicked out of school if we don't come up with a way to fix this. Didn't you listen to the messages. Yes, they had to be. I wanted you to call with the solution not asking me what happened! Can you just drive down here? Xan, you know I wouldn't ask, but we need you. Okay, I'll see you in the morning."
These were the times that having an older brother didn't completely suck. Alexander was calm in a crisis. He wouldn't think up every horrible scenario. More importantly he would do everything in his power to see no one got into any unnecessary trouble.
Nothing else could be done until the morning, so Kim got ready for bed then settled down to call Dale. She was going to make an attempt at telling the tale for the second time that night more coherently then she had the first time around.